Oil and Gas Pipeline Disasters Fail to Spur Bill Bolstering Oversight

"The Obama administration's bid to strengthen federal pipeline oversight is raising questions from environmental groups as well as industry, suggesting that safety reforms could fail to reach a legislative fast track despite three recent high-profile ruptures along the 2.3 million miles of U.S. oil and gas lines.

The White House proposal unveiled last week would reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) while hiking the maximum fine for companies involved in serious pipeline incidents to $2.5 million and empowering the agency to hire 40 new inspectors. But the rest of the measure largely focuses on new data collection and reviews, remaining silent on several high-priority issues for green advocates and pipeline operators.

Richard Kuprewicz, a veteran pipeline engineer and member of PHMSA's safety advisory panel, said the extra enforcement muscle in the new legislation "isn't going to hurt" -- but it may not go far enough to rein in companies that flout inspection and integrity standards."

Elana Schor reports for Greenwire September 22, 2010.

Thursday, September 23, 2010