Recently, the House Energy and Commerce and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees marked up and passed the SAFER Pipelines Act of 2019. This legislation is the House version of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) reauthorization bill. This follows the Senate Commerce Committee’s passage of their version at the end of July.
The underlying text makes several changes to existing law for distribution operators. It would require LDCs and other distributors to: capture minor methane releases during routine operations, submit distribution pipeline data to the National Pipeline Mapping System; remove the statutory cost-benefit analysis at PHMSA; insert a mandamus clause, additional methane regulations, and other provisions to increase public awareness; collaborate with communities and first responders; and, increase transparency in the PHMSA rulemaking process.
The Energy and Commerce Committee marked up the bill first. Amendments to the legislation included removing a provision that would have required distribution operators to submit information to the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS), requirements for distribution operators to submit additional materials to PHMSA, and authorizing the Department of Energy to coordinate with other federal agencies on physical and cyber security.
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee followed on Wednesday. Amendments mainly focused on transmission pipelines and non-distribution entities. One amendment would have reinserted the cost-benefit requirement for PHMSA rules (as it is removed in the base text). Another would remove the mandamus clause. Both amendments failed to pass.
Both bills passed on a party-line vote, with many members decrying the partisan and closed-door process. Next, the bills will head to the House Rules Committee prior to floor consideration. The House bills will also need to be conferenced with the Senate before sending to the President for a signature.
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