WASHINGTON, DC – Energy Subcommittee Republican Leader Fred Upton (R-MI) wrote an op-ed in Roll Call expressing his disappointment that House Democrats walked away from the table on pipeline safety negotiations. Pipeline safety legislation – as Upton described, “has historically been a bright spot of bipartisanship” – lapsed at the beginning of the month. In the op-ed, Upton describes three common-sense policies that Republicans and Democrats need to incorporate in legislation to regulate the almost three million miles of energy pipelines in the United States.
Democrats need to stop playing politics with our nation’s pipeline safety
October 11, 2019
By Rep. Fred Upton
In 2012, as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I worked with my good friend and fellow Michigander, the late Rep. John Dingell, to reauthorize our nation’s pipeline safety laws. This was in response to a pipeline burst that spilled 20,000 barrels of oil into the Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River near my district.
It didn’t matter that I had an ‘R’ next to my name and John had a ‘D’ next to his. What mattered was getting a final bill that could advance through a Republican House and a Democratic Senate and be signed by a Democratic president — a dynamic similar to the one we face today, with a Democratic House, a Republican Senate and a Republican president. Back then, we needed legislation that would make critical safety improvements to our nation’s vast pipeline infrastructure — and that’s exactly what we did, cutting down on incident reporting times and increasing financial penalties for violations.
Four years later, we did it again, with Republican and Democrats working together to pass another bipartisan pipeline safety bill.
But that bill’s authorization expired Oct. 1. After months of discussing a bipartisan reauthorization with our Democratic colleagues, they have decided to move forward on their own path, crafting a partisan plan without Republican input.
This is most unfortunate. This bill has historically been a bright spot of bipartisanship on an issue of national importance, and it should be again this year. With our government divided, the only way to advance something through Congress and get it signed by the president is if Democrats work with Republicans.
The truth is Republicans have remained at the negotiating table, ready and willing to meet with our Democratic colleagues. Any suggestion to the contrary is flat-out wrong.
2.7 million miles of energy pipelines deliver trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and billions of barrels of liquid petroleum products to communities across the nation every year. A disaster could devastate our economy, our environment and the well-being of American families, which makes playing politics with this reauthorization simply irresponsible.
I believe we have straightforward priorities for our pipeline safety bill that both parties can get behind.
First, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, and the states must have the resources necessary to do their job.
Second, we need to support PHMSA’s efforts to complete overdue congressional mandates.
And third, we need to ensure that PHSMA, state regulators and pipeline operators are incorporating lessons learned from prior accidents, integrating new technologies and continuing to improve safety.
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