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Larsen Pushes Progress On Pipeline Safety

Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, continued his efforts to improve pipeline safety today by championing safety grants for local communities as part of a larger pipeline safety bill. Larsen voted for and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016. Among other provisions, the bill reauthorizes technical assistance grants that Washington state organizations have used over the last several years to improve pipeline planning and development, emergency response, and information sharing.

Larsen has prioritized pipeline safety throughout his time in Congress, following the tragic pipeline explosion in Bellingham that killed three young people and caused severe damage to the environment and surrounding community. Larsen helped write the 2002 Pipeline Safety Improvement Act and its 2006 revisions, as well as the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Job Creation Act of 2011.

“We depend on 2.6 million miles of pipelines in our country each day to cook our food, heat our homes and drive to work. That is why safety must come first when we build new pipelines and maintain existing ones.

“I have worked for years to raise the bar on pipeline safety after the tragic 1999 explosion in Bellingham, and the PIPES Act continues the momentum of progress. The safety grants I pushed for have made a big difference in Washington state and will continue to protect our communities going forward. Keeping our communities safe requires vigilance, and I remain committed to pushing pipeline safety forward,” Larsen said.

Though the amendment was not adopted, Larsen also pushed to tighten the criminal liability standards for pipeline incidents. At today’s committee markup of the bill, Larsen called for criminal penalties against pipeline operators whose actions were inherently reckless, citing the Bellingham tragedy as an example.

“I want to hold operators accountable for reckless actions that put our communities in danger. I am disappointed the committee did not take this opportunity to put in place criminal penalties for reckless operator behavior,” Larsen said.

The PIPES Act reauthorizes technical assistance grants that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration provides to communities. Grants can be used for:

  • Improving emergency response capabilities;
  • Improving safe digging programs;
  • Developing pipeline safety information resources;
  • Implementing local land use practices that enhance pipeline safety;
  • Community and pipeline awareness campaigns; and
  • Enhancing public participation in official proceedings about pipelines.

Washington state recipients of past grants include the Pipeline Safety Trust, the Association of Washington Cities, Skagit County and the Utility Contractors Association of Washington.