Making State Gas Pipelines Safe and Reliable: An Assessment of State Policy
By Jacquelyn Pless
State and Federal Action
In 2010, at least 11 states considered and 4 states enacted legislation related to pipeline safety. Most bills would improve pipeline security and create committees to study safety concerns, increase penalties for safety violations, or upgrade emergency response plans. Some encourage infrastructure development and seek tax incentives to increase natural gas pipeline capacity.
- Alaska adopted two resolutions to encourage pipeline development. One (HCR 2) requests the governor to pursue development of a natural gas pipeline to provide energy security, and SCR 21 requires development of an in-state natural gas pipeline plan.
- In California, a pending bill (AB 56) would make the Public Utilities Commission responsible for development, submission and administration of a state pipeline safety program certification for natural gas pipelines. Senate Bill 44, also pending, would require the Public Utilities Commission to establish response standards for owners or operators of commission-regulated gas pipeline facilities. Response plans must be compatible with federal regulations.
- Hawaii enacted Senate Bill 880, repealing the Public Utilities Commission’s responsibility for pipeline safety and inspection functions, since this has been the responsibility of the Federal Office of Pipeline Safety since 1993.
- In Illinois, House Bill 6130 and Senate Bill 1927 would require the Commerce Commission to annually inspect all pipelines in the state that transport carbon dioxide to ensure their safety and feasibility. As often as deemed necessary, the commission would monitor and conduct investigations, and the operator must cooperate.
- Michigan considered five-pipeline related bills in 2010. House Bill 6502 and Senate Bill 1542, still pending, would require notification of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment in the event of a pipeline spill. House Bill 6504, also pending, would ensure that siting of a pipeline would not likely adversely affect public health, safety or welfare, or the environment. Senate Bill 1549 relates to petroleum pipeline operating permits, and Senate Bill 1565 modifies environmental cleanup procedures relating to releases of regulated substances into soil or groundwater from an underground storage tank.
- Nebraska's, LR 435 provided for an interim study resolution to examine oil and natural gas pipelines issues in the state.
- In New York, four pending bills deal with oil or natural gas pipelines. Senate Bill 3761 would provide penalties for gas safety violations. AB 8442 relates to penalties for gas safety violations and would increase the related civil penalty. One bill, AB 542, would prohibit oil or natural gas drilling operations or pipelines on or beneath certain water sources, and AB 8456 would establish environmental safety permits for liquefied natural gas facilities.
- Ohio is considering a bill (SB 152) that would create the Underground Protection Commission of Ohio and the State Underground Protection Advisory Committee; it would require compliance of the public safety program for interstate pipelines. The bill also would make a facility responsible for repairing damages and liable for injury of people or property resulting from damaged underground utility facilities. Another bill (SB 196) would modify environmental and safety standards and provide for leak, spill and explosion warning systems. Ohio revised the Oil and Gas Law in SB 165 relating to pipelines.
- Oklahoma enacted two bills (SB 300 and SB 2169). One authorizes promulgation of rules relating to an incident on a gathering pipeline unit not subject to certain safety regulations. The other creates the Task Force on Tax Incentives to Increase Natural Gas Pipeline Capacity. It directs the task force to study current tax incentives available to the natural gas pipeline transmission industry.
- A failed bill in Pennsylvania (HB 744) would have provided requirements for natural gas distribution companies with regard to operation and maintenance of service lines. HB 1128 would have increased civil penalties for gas pipeline safety violations. House Bill 2693, which also failed, would have regulated operators that transport gas and hazardous liquids and provided civil penalties for gas pipeline safety violations. A pending bill pending (SB 1045) would authorize the commonwealth to join the Mid-Atlantic Area Natural Gas Corridor Compact to promote regional cooperation in the location, approval and construction of cross-border natural gas pipelines in the Mid-Atlantic region by development of a regional pipeline siting council.
- Tennessee enacted SB 2912, which includes carbon dioxide transported via interstate pipeline in provisions stating that pipeline corporations do not confer upon the State Regulatory Authority any power to adopt standards for pipeline systems or transportation of gas subject to the jurisdiction of the federal power commission, as prohibited in the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act.
So far in 2011, legislators in California, Hawaii, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas have introduced bills relating to gas pipeline safety:
- In California, SB 216 would designate the Public Utilities Commission as the state authority responsible for administering a state pipeline safety program for natural gas pipelines. The PUC would implement and enforce a one-call notification program, and evaluate current practices to determine if new standards should be adopted to enhance public safety in regards to location of pipelines and use of block valves.
- Recognizing that Hawaii is one of only two states without state oversight of natural gas pipeline safety, policymakers introduced SB 84 and HB 481, which would authorize the public utilities commission to establish, inspect and enforce safety standards consistent with federal safety standards for gas pipelines.
- A pending bill in Nebraska (LB 340) would adopt the Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Notification Act to ensure that the state considers protection of natural resources, socioeconomic impacts, public disclosure and opportunity for public input when installing pipelines. Also pending in Nebraska, LB 578 and LB 629 address pipeline issues.
- Assembly Bill 1238 in New York (pending) would establish environmental safety permit requirements for liquefied natural gas facilities.
- In Oklahoma, House Bill 1424 would grant the Corporation Commission power to enforce maintenance and operation standards for certain pipelines.
- Pennsylvania’s pending HB 102 would raise a certain civil penalty maximum for gas pipeline safety violations from $10,000 to $100,000. Similarly, SB 325 and HB 344 would further impose civil penalties for violations.
- South Carolina is considering HB 3100, which would establish a committee to review minimum safety standards for natural gas pipeline facilities and transportation of natural gas. The committee would make recommendations to improve facility design, installation, inspection, testing, construction, extension, replacement and maintenance.
- Senate Bill 23 in South Dakota would amend pipeline safety inspection regulations by updating certain citations to federal regulations.
- Legislation in Texas, HB 1124, relates to gas pipeline safety requirements in certain counties.
The U.S. Congress is taking the most comprehensive approach to address pipeline safety issues in three pending bills. Senate Bill 3824 would strengthen the Pipeline Safety and Enforcement Act to provide for enhanced safety and environmental protection in pipeline transportation and reliability in the transportation of energy products by pipeline. The resolution also would increase the number of full-time equivalent employees of the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration by at least 100 compared to the current number.
Senate Bill 3856 would create the Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2010 and provide enhanced safety and environmental protection in pipeline transportation and reliability in the transportation of energy products by pipeline. The bill would provide minimum pipeline standards and civil penalties for major violations. House Resolution 6295 also would enhance pipeline safety and provide communities with access to improved information concerning the equipment and operations of pipeline facilities.