Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood called on NARUC members to help “sound the alarm” about the status of natural gas pipeline safety.
In an unscheduled appearance Monday, Feb. 14, during the Winter Committee Meetings, Secretary LaHood said he is calling for a national conversation about pipeline safety issues and asked NARUC members to be active and strong participants.
“I want you to be a part of this,” the Secretary said. “We’re committed to taking this on as a serious safety issue.”
NARUC President Tony Clark of North Dakota and Committee on Gas Chair Timothy Alan Simon of California welcomed Secretary LaHood’s invitation and said the Association and its members are fully prepared to participate.
“On behalf of the nation’s State public utility commissioners, we thank Secretary LaHood for meeting with us today. State regulators fully understand the importance of assuring the safety of our nation’s pipeline system. We take these responsibilities seriously and personally. We truly appreciate the Secretary offering an invitation to us to speak about these issues on a bigger scale. The nation must be assured that its gas pipeline system is safe and reliable, and that responsibility falls on all of us. We welcome Secretary LaHood’s call for action and we look forward to working with him, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administrator Cynthia Quarterman, and whomever else the Secretary includes.”
To indicate NARUC’s commitment to pipeline safety, the Board of Directors passed a resolution sponsored by Commissioner Simon’s Committee on Gas calling on Congress to authorize and appropriate sufficient federal grant funding so State inspectors have the resources they need.
In addition, the resolution urged Congress to direct the Department of Transportation to conduct a study of issues associated with government-agency exemptions from One-Call laws; work with States to make clear that funding allocated for pipeline safety is being used as intended; and address whether unregulated pipeline systems, such as gathering lines, should be given more oversight.
The resolution is available on the NARUC Website at: www.naruc.org.
The Gas Committee in particular has been focused on pipeline safety. Chairman Simon held a panel on safety at both the November 2010 Annual Meeting in Atlanta and at the recently concluded Winter Committee Meetings in Washington. At both sessions, committee members were briefed by experts on all sides of the debate, including officials from the National Transportation Safety Board, PHMSA, DOE, and consumer and industry groups.
Secretary LaHood said he knows NARUC is focused on this topic and that he looks forward to working with States as part of his “all-hands-on-deck” discussion to figure out what is happening and how it can be prevented.
“We need your help to provide solutions to a very aging pipeline system,” he said.
Secretary LaHood said all ideas will be welcome, including working out reimbursement payments to State pipeline inspectors that are funded by the federal government. Current law authorizes Congress to reimburse State activities up to 80% of their expenditures, but in recent years Congress has not appropriated the money to those levels.
“That will be on the agenda,” the Secretary said. “On my watch, we’re not going to rest … until we figure out what the right solutions are.”
The federal government will not be part of the problem, he said, but rather “we’ll be part of the solution.”
He stressed that the federal government doesn’t have all the answers, which is why he is reaching out to States and all others who are responsible for assuring the safety of the nation’s pipelines. “We want to work with you,” he said. “We don’t have all the answers… I can tell all of you feel” the same way.
NARUC is a non-profit organization founded in 1889 whose members include the governmental agencies that are engaged in the regulation of utilities and carriers in the fifty States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. NARUC's member agencies regulate telecommunications, energy, and water utilities. NARUC represents the interests of State public utility commissions before the three branches of the Federal government.
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