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House and Senate Republican Committee Leaders Highlight Concerns with Administration’s Anti-Pipeline Policies and Inaction on Safety Law Requirements

House and Senate Committee Republican leaders today expressed concerns that the Biden Administration is putting its anti-pipeline agenda and policies ahead of the needs of the country and failing to implement key pipeline safety provisions in law as Congress intended.

In a letter to Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Acting Administrator Tristan Brown, the committee leaders listed inactions and missteps in the agency’s implementation of the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2020 (PIPES Act).  The letter was sent by

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO); Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS); House Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Ranking Member Rick Crawford (R-AR); and Senate Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight, and Ports Subcommittee Ranking Member Deb Fischer (R-NE).

The letter states, “Unfortunately, the actions of the Biden Administration have worked to disincentivize the construction and permitting of this essential infrastructure, which is necessary for transportation of traditional fossil fuel energy sources, as well as new and emerging fuels, such as carbon dioxide or hydrogen.  Actions such as cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, rollback of the Trump Administration’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations and Navigable Waters Protection Rule, as well as this Administration’s strong anti-energy rhetoric have disincentivized future investments in pipeline infrastructure.  A lack of pipeline infrastructure only further penalizes average Americans grappling with inflation and record high gasoline and energy prices.  Given this Administration’s anti-pipeline policies and messaging, it is imperative that we ensure PHMSA implements the PIPES Act in an unbiased manner that focuses on pipeline safety as Congress intended.”

Concerns highlighted by Graves, Wicker, Crawford, and Fischer include:

  • Delays in a requirement for PHMSA to consider modernizing class location change requirements, which has the potential to create efficiencies for pipeline operators while further protecting the environment.
  • A technology pilot program to allow operators to field test new and innovative safety technologies and practices.  PHMSA transmitted a cost-benefit report on expanding this pilot before it issued guidance to operators on how to actually utilize the program.  This could disincentivize and over-complicate participation in the program.
  • No action on a requirement to issue regulations by the end of 2022 to create a new idled pipeline operating status, which would provide operational efficiencies for pipelines temporarily not in service.
  • No action on a requirement to update operations and maintenance standards for liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities and report on the creation of an LNG center of excellence.  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year has propelled LNG as a strategic and essential commodity in the global economy, making the implementation of this provision even more important.
  • Continued staffing challenges with PHMSA.  Although the PIPES Act provides the agency with additional authority to hire personnel with expertise in pipeline safety, pipeline facilities, and pipeline systems to complete outstanding congressional mandates and rulemakings, PHMSA has indicated that it will be hiring attorneys, environmental economists, and climate change and mitigation staff instead of personnel with pipeline safety expertise.

    Read the full letter here.

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