Larsen-Backed Bill to Improve Pipeline Safety Clears Key Legislative Hurdle

Jun 8, 2016 Issues: Energy, Transportation

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, today announced that a provision he has championed to improve pipeline safety cleared a key legislative hurdle when it passed out of the House by a voice vote. The amendment to the Securing America's Future Energy: Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (SAFE PIPES) Act would renew technical assistance grants that Washington state stakeholders rely on to improve pipeline planning and development, emergency response, and information sharing.

The legislation now heads to the Senate, which is expected to take up the bill in short order.

“This week marks the 17th anniversary of the tragic explosion in Bellingham, and as we saw with that incident when it comes to pipeline safety there is no room for error,” said Larsen, a senior member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “Our communities deserve a safe and reliable system of pipelines to provide the fuel that cooks their food, heats their homes and powers their cars, and this grant program represents a critical component of pipeline safety.” 

Larsen has prioritized pipeline safety throughout his time in Congress. Following the tragic pipeline explosion in Bellingham that killed one adult and two children and dumped thousands of gallons of gasoline into Whatcom Creek, Larsen helped write the 2002 Pipeline Safety Improvement Act as well as the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Job Creation Act of 2011.

Larsen has also pushed to tighten the criminal liability standards for pipeline incidents. Earlier this year, he called for criminal penalties against pipeline operators whose actions were inherently reckless, citing the Bellingham tragedy as an example.

The SAFE 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.