SAN BRUNO (CBS / CNN / AP) — U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Monday that the Obama administration will push legislation designed to overhaul and upgrade America’s aging oil and gas pipeline network.
LaHood also wants Congress to increase civil penalties for pipeline violations, close regulatory loopholes and add inspectors.
The initative is partly a response to a series of deadly pipeline explosions, including the one last year in San Bruno that killed eight people and destroyed 37 homes. Investigators said the pipe had
A February pipeline explosion in Allentown, Pennsylvania, resulted in the deaths of five people. And in Philadelphia in January, a gas main explosion sent a 50-foot fireball into the sky, killing a utility worker.
San Bruno’s faulty pipeline was installed in 1956; Allentown’s was installed in 1928.
Many pipeline systems across the nation were installed decades ago, yet states often do not require their timely replacement.
During a news conference in Allentown, LaHood called on the major pipeline companies to conduct a review of their oil and gas delivery systems to identify the lines with the highest risk. He also urged them to speed up the most critical repair work.
Gas companies are already legally required to check pipeline integrity in highly populated areas and make repairs where necessary, but LaHood has asked company executives to make it a priority.
“People deserve to know that they can turn on the lights, the heat or the stove without endangering their families and neighbors,” LaHood said. “The safety of the American public is my top priority, and I am taking on this critical issue to avoid future tragedies.”
Among other things, the administration wants Congress to increase the maximum civil penalties for pipeline violations from $100,000 per day to $250,000 per day. It also wants to increase fines from $1 million to $2.5 million for a series of violations.
The administration also would like to boost the number of safety inspectors and improve data reporting to increase the likelihood of early identification of possible pipeline safety risks.
The Transportation Department is planning to convene a pipeline safety forum on April 18 in Washington, D.C. with industry leaders, state officials and others to discuss ways to improve the nation’s infrastructure.
The U.S. has more than 2.5 million miles of pipelines used for the delivery of oil and gas, according to the Transporation Department.
Significant pipeline failures resulting in oil spills or gas explosion usually come from damage due to digging, corrosion and failure of the pipe material, welds or equipment, officials said.
The latter is due to problems with valves, pumps or poor construction, they said.
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