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Franks Doesn't Plan "Fixes" to Pipeline Safety Act

Franks Doesn't Plan "Fixes" to Pipeline Safety Act

Rep. Robert Franks (R-NJ) told natural gas executives yesterday the Pipeline Safety Act of 1995, which is up for reauthorization in Congress this year, has been a success story so far and that he doesn't think it should be changed.

"That was truly landmark legislation. And let me give you a piece of good news - I ain't out to fix something that ain't broke. I believe in that bill...I believe that the approach embodied in that legislation, while at the time revolutionary, in my judgment has proven itself in terms of being able to contribute to the public's safety and welfare," he said during a Natural Gas Roundtable luncheon in Washington D.C.

Franks has been a big supporter of pipeline safety since March 1994 when Edison, NJ, which is part of his district, was rocked by a major pipeline explosion. "That brought the issue of pipeline safety home to me as no other event candidly could have."

Prior to the 1995 law, reauthorization efforts "were driven by successive reactions to pipeline accidents. We would look at an accident or a number of accidents and try to devise a one-size-fits-fall approach" to deal with them, said Franks, who as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee has shared oversight over pipeline safety reauthorization.

In short, Congress then believed that "more and more regulation" was the best way to reduce the chances of pipeline accidents. But in taking this course of action, it was "missing some of the most important dangers," he said.

"We weren't analyzing the level of the risk, and we weren't applying our resources to diminish the most important risks." But Franks noted all of that changed when the 104th Congress moved away from the one-size-fits-all mentality and established a model requiring an analysis of the risk-reduction benefits and associated costs of proposed regulations. Under the model, which was used in the pipeline safety bill, proposed regulations that had too many costs in relation to benefits didn't qualify to become law.

The 1995 pipeline safety law will expire in September 2000. Franks noted his subcommittee will hold hearings later this year on the issue. He urged the gas industry to tell subcommittee members "what you think has worked, what hasn't [and] what might need fine-turning." A key issue, he said, will be the term of the reauthorization. "Whether it will be a two-year or four-year reauthorization has yet to be determined."

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