As the Pipeline Safety Act (PSA) reauthorization deadline approaches, the Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee recently released draft discussion legislation titled, The Safer Pipelines Act of 2019. The “discussion draft” was released in advance of a Committee hearing held on June 19, 2019. At the hearing, it became clear that the recent legislation was drafted behind closed doors and that it was not well received by the minority Republicans on the Committee or industry representatives.
With this most recent draft legislation, several noteworthy legislative changes are likely to be considered by the Committee, although two Committee Republicans questioned whether marking up the draft was worth the effort. Notably, PHMSA declined to participate in the hearing because it did not have sufficient time to review the draft. Industry trade group representatives provided testimony as well as a representative from the Pipeline Safety Trust. The more significant proposals are summarized below and relate to: (1) lowering the criminal liability standard; (2) expanding the definition of regulated gathering pipelines; (3) clarifying and expanding citizen suits; (4) substantially increasing the amount of operator information made available to local responders and to the public; and (5) other integrity management requirements regarding phasing out direct assessment and requiring automatic shut off valves for liquid pipelines.