A pair of U.S. senators from Kansas has renewed that state’s efforts to shift the responsibility for monitoring some underground natural gas storage facilities from the federal government to states, saying the modification would help avoid accidents at such facilities.

The Underground Gas Storage Facility Safety Act of 2012 (S 763), introduced recently by Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), would authorize states to enforce pipeline safety requirements related to wellbores at interstate storage facilities. State inspection plans would require the approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

More than a decade ago, an explosion at a mobile home in Hutchinson, KS, was found to have been caused by migrating gas escaping from an underground gas storage salt formation more than seven miles away. But federal authorities continue to shirk their responsibility to monitor storage facilities, said the senators.

“It’s been over 10 years since we lost two lives to a gas explosion in Hutchison, and the federal government is still nowhere to be found,” Roberts said.

“This threat is real. Our first priority is to protect Kansans from harm. We need strong oversight in the storage of natural gas reserves, and in the absence of federal leadership the state must be allowed to step up and protect its people. Inaction opens the door for a real tragedy, so we must act and put our faith in the people on the ground to protect their families, friends and neighbors.”

The bill would fill a void by allowing states to step in when the federal government fails to monitor natural gas storage sites, Moran said. “Our country’s citizens should be protected from the threat of explosions, and this common sense approach puts safety first.”

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is exploring implementing additional regulations specific to storage facilities associated with gas transmission pipelines through its advanced notice of proposed rulemaking for gas transmission pipelines (see Daily GPI, Aug. 25, 2011), according to a PHMSA source, who said the agency is also working with states and industry on task groups for developing improved safety standards for the facilities.

A 2009 court ruling determined that Kansas, through the Kansas Corporation Commission, could not monitor its own storage fields if the gas in those facilities is in interstate transportation, the senators said. More than 270 Bcf is held in the state’s 11 interstate underground storage facilities.

Roberts in 2011 introduced similar legislation to give states the authority to inspect natural gas storage facilities (see Daily GPI, Nov. 16, 2011).

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