Yesterday, President Obama signed into law the “Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety” (PIPES) Act. This bi-partisan bill was the culmination of efforts by both the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. This Act is intended to increase the efficiency and transparency of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) while enlarging safety inspections and audits of the natural gas pipeline industry.
PIPES focuses on PHMSA almost as much as it focuses on pipelines. The Act reauthorizes PHMSA’s pipeline safety program for another 4 years. The Act forces PHMSA to complete the directives it was supposed to complete by 2015, but failed. PHMSA must now update Congress every 90 days on outstanding statutory mandates. Additionally, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will conduct studies into the effectiveness of PHMSA’s integrity management programs.
The Act also focuses on additional inspections and scrutiny for pipelines in coastal areas, marine waters, and the Great Lakes. These pipelines will now have a new designation of “unusually environmentally sensitive.” But along with the heightened scrutiny is an effort to help the industry comply with new safety regulations by sharing new technologies that increase safety and protect the environment.