A former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said he is concerned about the federal government's delay in issuing regulations to implement the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Jobs Creation Act, which President Obama signed into law in January 2012 (see Daily GPI,Jan. 4, 2012).

"I am concerned with recent pipeline tragedies and what's being done to prevent future events and that implementation of the Pipeline Safety Act (PSA) and its associated regulations is taking far too long," wrote Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) in a letter Wednesday to Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

"As oil and gas exploration and production continues to grow in the Bakken, Marcellus and Eagle Ford shale fields, more and more pipelines will be needed to take advantage of these domestic sources of energy. The rapid growth of pipelines serving shale oil and gas production and the continued degradation of existing pipelines likely will outpace your department's ability to develop and oversee new and existing safety requirements," he said.

Dingell asked DOT to respond to a series of questions by Dec. 31, including:

  • Will the department issue follow-up notices of plans to conduct a comprehensive review of both hazardous liquid and natural gas pipeline regulations? "The lack of action on this front is not only disturbing to a public that is concerned about the safety of our quickly growing system of pipelines, but it is also unsettling to the industry, which has no certainty as to what the rules will be going forward," Dingell said;
  • The PSA requires the DOT secretary to issue regulations on how to conduct tests confirming the material strength of certain previously untested natural gas transmission pipelines. Has DOT issued this regulation? If not, when does the department anticipate issuing the final regulation?; and
  • Will the department issue a proposed rule on leak detection?

The PSA requires the DOT secretary to issue a rule on the use of automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves or equivalent technology on new or replaced transmission pipelines by Jan. 3, 2014, Dingell said. And Section 5 of the PSA requires the DOT secretary to evaluate within 18 months whether integrity management system requirements should be expanded and where application of integrity management program requirements to more areas would mitigate the need for class location requirements.