May 05, 2011

Udall Amendment to Improve Pipeline Safety Passes Committee

WASHINGTON - An amendment introduced by U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) to improve pipeline safety in rural areas was reported out of the Senate Commerce Committee today. The amendment was included in the larger Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011 (S. 275) which also passed committee on a unanimous voice vote.

In August 2000, a severely corroded natural gas transmission line exploded outside of Carlsbad killing 12 members of several related families camping near the Pecos River. The incident is considered to be the second worst pipeline explosion in the U.S, and the tragedy helped spur Congress to enact the first dedicated federal pipeline safety law.

The Udall amendment would specifically address safety issues in rural areas similar to the location of the Carlsbad accident by requiring companies to share pipeline inspection data collected in rural areas. Currently, pipeline inspection data must only be collected and maintained in designated "high consequence areas" which are largely denser, urban areas.

"New Mexico has a lot of natural gas lines, many of which run through our rural areas. I offered this amendment to help prevent tragic accidents like the one near Carlsbad from happening again. By collecting information about the integrity of pipelines we can all be better prepared to catch these safety concerns before they turn into a horrible accident," said Udall, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee.

The Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act will strengthen U.S. pipeline safety standards by increasing the maximum penalties to $250,000 per violation; extend standards to additional pipelines; enhance "one-call" programs to prevent excavation damage; and consider expanding pipeline inspection and data collection requirements to rural areas (Udall amendment).

"Overall, pipelines are a safer mode of transportation relative to the alternatives, but given the tragedies that continue to occur, we need further improvement. With stronger standards and an expanded focus on rural areas, this legislation will improve public safety in all areas of our nation, not just in populated urban areas," Udall said.