Congressmember Lois Capps expressed guarded support for a new bill reauthorizing the Pipeline Safety Act, calling it “not perfect,” but a “starting point.” Capps’ spokesperson C.J. Young said Capps will push for “more robust” inspection and safety requirements as the bill winds its way through the House Energy and Commerce Committee on which Capps sits.

Now in her last year in office, Capps — inspired by last May’s Refugio Oil Spill from a Plains All American Pipeline along the Gaviota Coast — has said she will push for more frequent and stringent safety and inspection standards on pipelines carrying crude oil. This Tuesday hearing — attended by the head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and four other expert witnesses — marked the opening salvo in this effort.

Nothing in the bill would require pipeline operators to use automatic shut-off valves. While these are standard equipment for many pipeline operators, Plains was the only pipeline company doing business in Santa Barbara County without them. Young said he expects the issue of shut-off valves to be addressed in new rules now being promulgated by PHMSA.


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