Speier proposes pipeline legislationBy Jackie Speier
I represent the 12th Congressional District which includes the city of San Bruno. The residents of the Glenview neighborhood have been living a nightmare since the PG&E natural pipeline explosion on September 9, 2010.
A total of eight people have died. Some residents were or still are hospitalized, many with severe burns. I have stared at the concrete foundations, the only remains of a blast that totally destroyed 37 homes. Despite the heroic efforts of so many people, the pain has been intense and there is no telling when the grieving will end and the anger subside.
I have talked to many of you and heard your concerns. We have an aging infrastructure and you are wondering: Are the lines too old? Are they safe? Where are they? Is it safe to live near them?
To address your safety and the safety of anybody in the country living near a gas line, I introduced the Pipeline Safety and Community Empowerment Act of 2010. This bill is comprehensive and will ensure that utilities like PG&E maintain their pipelines. We deserve an infrastructure that provides safe and reliable energy.
The bill requires the Department of Transportation (DOT) to set minimum safety standards within one year that would require pipeline owners like PG&E to install remote or automatic shut-off valves on existing pipelines with special emphasis on pipelines in high seismic risk areas. Remote or automatic shut-off valves would be required in all new construction or when pipelines are replaced.
It mandates inspections by "smart pigs" - small robotic devices that inspect the insides of pipelines - or other inspection methods certified by the Secretary of Transportation as equally effective at finding corrosion. Accident statistics over the past decade identify corrosion as the leading cause of all reported pipeline accidents. The bill prohibits natural gas pipelines from operating at high pressure if they cannot be inspected using the most effective inspection technology.
The bill requires the Secretary of Transportation to set minimum standards within one year that would require pipeline operators to notify homeowners within two years of enactment and every three years thereafter if they live within 2000 feet of a transmission line. If the transmission line is on private residential property, the location of the pipeline must be disclosed to the property owner.
It adds seismic activity and age of the pipeline to the factors used in determining if an area is a high consequence area for stricter oversight. Currently the law only considers population density as a factor.
The bill requires pipeline owners and operators to provide state regulators and state and local emergency responders with pipeline location information, emergency response plans and other critical information before the fact, and not to wait for the utility to provide information after the disaster, as has happened in San Bruno, and the bill requires the DOT to keep all pipeline operator information on file.
It requires DOT to review and approve all pipeline operator public education and safety programs.
It requires that any standards or procedures adopted by reference in DOT regulations-for example American Petroleum Institute public education standards-be easily available free of charge to the public. Currently the public has to pay API to obtain a copy of these standards.
The bill requires DOT to report to Congress on the efficacy and implantation of those public safety education programs.
It will take time for the Glenview residents to heal and rebuild. Laws cannot replace lives, but they may prevent another San-Bruno-like disaster.
I will listen to you and do what I can to help you through this difficult recovery. Please visit my website for updates and don't hesitate to call my district office at 650-342-0300 if you need assistance.
Copyright ©2010 U.S. Congress. Published 09/29/2010.