Senate Field Hearing to Review State of Pipeline Safety

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, will convene it Jan. 28 in Charleston, W.Va., seven weeks after the pipeline explosion in nearby Sissonville.

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is holding a field hearing on pipeline safety Jan. 28 in Charleston, W.Va., with Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., set to preside. Rockefeller, who announced last Friday that he will not run for re-election in 2014, has made pipeline safety a priority during his four years as chairman of the panel.

Charleston is 15 miles south of Sissonville, W.Va., where a gas transmission pipeline exploded Dec. 11, 2012, damaging a highway and nearby homes. Rockefeller said he has invited key witnesses to review the current state of pipeline safety. "The Sissonville explosion shook West Virginia quite literally and served as a stark reminder that pipeline safety is serious. And oversight is critically important," he said. "This will be the fourth Senate Commerce Committee hearing on this issue during my tenure as chairman, and it's an important one to West Virginia because we know how much worse things could have been in Sissonville. And West Virginians want to know everything is being done to prevent accidents –- and disasters."

The "Pipeline Safety: An On-the-Ground Look at Safeguarding the Public" hearing will review DOT's implementation of the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011, which became law last January, and will allow committee members to review the findings of a Government Accountability Office study about transmission pipeline facility operators' ability to respond to a hazardous liquid or gas release. That study is expected to be availalble Jan. 23, according to Rockefeller, who said, "Passing comprehensive pipeline safety legislation was a good step, but I did push for even stronger provisions in that bill, and we must assess where implementation of that law stands and whether future actions are needed."

He was in Charleston when he announced he will retire from the Senate two years from now. "As I approach 50 years of public service in West Virginia, I've decided that 2014 will be the right moment for me to find new ways to fight for the causes I believe in and to spend more time with my incredible family. Serving West Virginia in the U.S. Senate is an abiding honor and privilege, and Sharon and I are so full of gratitude to our state and to the countless friends and supporters who have made my public service possible," Rockefeller said. "For the next two years in the Senate, and well beyond, I will continue working tirelessly on behalf of all West Virginians. Championing those most in need has been my life's calling, and I will never stop fighting to make a difference for the people who mean so much to me."

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