U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, introduced federal legislation last week that aims to improve the safety of pipelines transporting gas.
The Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Environmentally Responsible, or SAFER, Pipelines Act of 2019 would reinstate 2016 limits on methane emissions and take other steps to increase pipeline safety and reduce emissions that contribute to climate change.
“There are nearly 3 million miles of pipelines transporting hazardous liquid and natural gas just feet below countless communities across the U.S., yet federal efforts to ensure these pipelines are safe, reliable and environmentally-sound are woefully outdated,” DeFazio said in a written statement. “And we have the numbers to back that up. Last year alone, there were 636 pipeline incidents that left eight people dead and injured another 90, including the horrific incident that killed one person, sent 21 others to the hospital, and damaged 131 structures in Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts.”
DeFazio also said the industry is responsible for one-third of the country’s emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas he said is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the first few decades of its release and a major contributor to climate change.
“The legislation we are introducing today presents a significant opportunity to do better. We need pipeline operators to do their part to reduce methane emissions and prevent catastrophic leaks, and if they don’t, we can make sure they will be held accountable for putting our communities at risk and contributing to climate change,” DeFazio said.
DeFazio is the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. His district includes Douglas and Coos counties, where Canadian energy company Pembina hopes to construct a pipeline that would transport natural gas to the planned Jordan Cove export terminal in Coos Bay.
The bill was cosponsored by Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Frank Pallone Jr., D-NJ.
According to DeFazio, the bill would require gas pipeline facility operators to capture gas released during routine operations or maintenance, require automatic shutoffs or remote-controlled valves, and require advanced leak-detection technology. It would also increase maximum civil penalties for violations from $200,000 to $20 million per violation and strengthen criminal penalties for operators who act recklessly.
The bill also directs the National Academy of Sciences to study how regulations could be strengthened to protect earthquake-prone areas from pipeline failures.