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
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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