PRESS RELEASE / ANNOUNCEMENTS Wednesday, September 6, 2017

House Unanimously Passes Carbajal Amendment to Strengthen Pipeline Safety Standards

Today, Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24) announced the passage of his amendment to the FY18 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill, requiring updated automatic shutoff valves and leak detection standards for oil and gas pipelines.

The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 includes instruction that the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), issue updated regulations to require the use of automatic or remote-control shut-off valves on new transmission pipelines. PHMSA has not yet put forth new safety standards in the six years since that law was passed. Rep. Carbajal’s amendment sets aside $1 million of PHMSA’s budget for the finalization and implementation of section 4 and section 8 of the bipartisan 2011 pipeline safety law, to ensure federal guidelines are updated to minimize the risks associated with pipeline ruptures.

“This amendment takes important steps to improve the safety of our pipeline infrastructure along the Central Coast and across the country,” said Rep. Carbajal. “Updated pipeline leak standards and automatic shut-off valves are essential to mitigate damage caused by oil spills on our communities. The Central Coast saw this first-hand when it took over two hours to detect the source of the Plains’s Line 901 spill, where thousands of gallons of oil onto Refugio Beach and into the ocean. Pipeline failures such as this directly threaten the public’s health and safety, the local economy, and our environment.”

A video of his remarks can be found here and his remarks as drafted are below:

Thank you, Mr. Chair,

I am offering an amendment to ensure we are taking the appropriate steps to improve pipeline safety and mitigate some of the devastating impacts of oil spills throughout our nation. This is a particularly important issue for my constituents on the Central Coast where we have seen the damage oil spills wreck on our communities and to our local economies.

During the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, over 100,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the Santa Barbara Channel. This was the largest oil spill in California’s history that significantly harmed Santa Barbara’s unique marine ecosystems and wildlife, recreational interests, and commercial fishing. Paired with the 2015 Refugio oil spill, also in Santa Barbara County, where clean-up costs hit $92 million— these incidents show us that we cannot continue to drag our feet.

We need to implement pipeline safety and spill mitigation rules that Congress already passed six years ago.

In 2011, the House worked in a bipartisan way to pass the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act. This law, which passed the House unanimously, directed the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, to update and strengthen key pipeline safety standards.

The law called on PHMSA to issue a rule requiring automatic shutoff valves on new pipelines and to strengthen requirements for the inclusion of leak detection technologies on pipelines.

My amendment is straightforward. It sets aside $1 million of PHMSA’s own budget for the finalization and implementation of section 4 and section 8 of the bipartisan 2011 pipeline safety law so that our federal guidelines are up to date. Section 4 requires new pipelines to install automatic shutoff valves, and section 8 requires pipeline operators to use the latest leak detection technologies.

Again, both provisions were enacted unanimously by this House in 2011.

While an automatic shutoff valve will not stop an oil spill, it can mitigate some of the damage on our communities During the Refugio oil spill in my district in 2015, it took operators over two hours to find the source of the burst. We can do better.

We already know that oil spills will continue to happen as long as we continue to rely fossil fuels for our energy security. It is time for PHMSA to follow the law and the bipartisan will of Congress and move forward with these rules.

My amendment holds PHMSA accountable to make sure they develop and implement these commonsense safety standards.

I urge passage of my amendment and reserve the balance of my time.


Tess Whittlesey
(202) 281-7612

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