Vice President Gore Announces Comprehensive Legislation to Improve Pipeline Safety

Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release April 11, 2000

Bill Would Strengthen Enforcement and Community "Right to Know"

WASHINGTON, DC--Vice President Gore today proposed comprehensive new legislation to improve the safety of oil and gas pipelines across the country, and to strengthen citizens' right to know about pipelines in their communities.

The proposed legislation, the Pipeline Safety and Community Protection Act of 2000, would reauthorize and strengthen the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) pipeline safety program. The legislation would increase safety measures and inspections in heavily populated and environmentally sensitive areas, increase penalties for safety violations, and expand research to develop innovative pipeline inspection tools.

"Pipelines criss-cross our country, carrying the fuel that powers our homes, our cars, and our factories. These pipelines are vital to our economy, but without adequate safeguards, they can pose a serious threat to our families, and to our environment," the Vice President said. "Our proposed legislation will establish strong, comprehensive pipeline safety measures, backed by rigorous enforcement, and the best technology available. It also guarantees every community's right to know where these pipelines are and how well they are maintained."

The proposed legislation would require pipeline operators to establish comprehensive inspection and repair programs to prevent, and reduce the impact of, pipeline failures. Programs would have to be in place within a year for highly populated areas and for places where a pipeline failure would pose the greatest threat to drinking water sources, wetlands, or other environmentally sensitive areas.

The bill also gives federal and state regulators more authority to take action following a pipeline spill, and increases by as much as four times the penalties for violations to help ensure that pipeline companies perform necessary testing and repairs to pipeline damage. In addition, the bill allows for citizen suits to seek penalties for violations.

Building on the Administration's strong commitment to community "right to know" efforts, the bill would make it easier for residents, businesses and government officials to get information about pipelines in their communities. It mandates public access to information about the location and safety of pipelines, and requires that pipeline maps be made available to state and local emergency response authorities.

To help detect problems before pipelines fail, the bill provides for additional research to improve and develop innovative pipeline inspection tools such as "smart pigs," camera-like devices that move along inside a pipeline and allow operators to detect damage. Better monitoring tools could speed up detection of damage to pipelines, such as tears, cracks and corrosion.

The bill also would strengthen the role of states in ensuring pipeline safety, increasing federal grants for inspection of interstate pipelines and for investigation of spills.

Currently, pipelines carry nearly 65 percent of the petroleum and most natural gas transported in the United States. The DOT's Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) oversees the pipeline safety program that creates safety regulations for pipelines and penalizes pipeline companies whose operations fail to meet government safety standards.

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