Subcommittee addresses concerns about pipeline safety awareness programs

Members of Congress met July 21 to discuss recent concerns about the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's oversight of owner/operator public awareness and education programs for pipeline safety.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee hearing (.pdf file) was the fourth in a series of hearings scheduled in light of the Deepwater Horizon crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. It stemmed from concerns raised by the National Transportation Safety Board that even though a pipeline operator's public awareness program plan may comply with federal regulations, there is no guarantee that implementation is effective or that the operator is exercising sufficient oversight, Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the committee, said during his opening statement.

PHMSA Administrator Cynthia L. Quarterman told the panel that excavation damage, although preventable, remains the leading cause of pipeline incidents involving fatalities and injuries, according to her written statement (.pdf file). She said PHMSA has made grant funding available and a number of programs are underway to increase public awareness of pipeline hazards, such as the "811 Call Before You Dig" program.

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