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Walden Remarks at Markup on “H.R. 3432, the Safer Pipelines Act of 2019”


WASHINGTON, DC –  Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) delivered the following opening remarks today at a Subcommittee on Energy markup on “H.R. 3432, the Safer Pipelines Act of 2019.”

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The continued safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of our nation’s 2.6 million miles of pipelines is essential for our economy and our communities.

Pipelines provide the energy and resources for many goods and services in our daily lives.  Whether it’s the power for transportation, the heat and cooling for our homes and businesses, the electricity for lights—and so much more.

Our responsibility, is to make sure the federal government and especially the states have appropriate resources and tools to develop and enforce pipeline safety requirements for this critical system.

As you know Mr. Chairman, this Committee’s work to reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, and to modernize the nation’s pipeline safety program has long been done in a strong bipartisan manner. Unfortunately, as our side expressed at our legislative hearing last week, we have not really been following that practice this year.

The original draft version of the bill we are marking up today, introduced just about two weeks ago, underscored our concerns about moving too fast. It lacked any input from the Minority, which several Members on our side expressed last week.

Having said that, and while we still have concerns about several of the provisions in the bill that we are marking up today, I want to recognize that our Committee staff have started to sit down and work through the various issues. This is an encouraging start, which I hope will continue past today as we seek to find mutually agreeable ways to improve our nation’s pipeline safety.

Today’s markup represents a good chance to outline some of the improvements we think are necessary in the bill. For example, we should focus on opportunities to improve pipeline safety through innovation and technology.

Let’s look at what we can do to encourage pipeline operators to continue innovating and incorporating the most cutting-edge technologies and best-practices.

Let’s provide the tools and incentives so that our regulations can keep pace with best practices. Part of this may involve simply incentivizing the completion of current rulemakings and not piling on more Congressional mandates or counterproductive requirements.

Let’s explore the concept of a pilot program that would allow PHMSA to collaborate with pipeline operators to permit the use of new safety technologies and best practices. There seems to be strong support at the agency and among stakeholders for that concept. And the idea of an information sharing program, modeled on safety programs used successfully in other federal agencies, seems worthy of close attention by this Committee.

Some of these ideas were discussed in the legislative hearing last week. And they represent the kind of reforms we should continue to work on together.

So, thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your willingness to include us in the drafting process in the last few days and your commitment to continue that inclusiveness going forward.  We are hopeful that this type of cooperation will result in a bipartisan product we all can support before any full Committee markup. And with that, I yield back.

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