Upton: Lives Are at Stake. Stop Playing Politics with Pipelines

Telling colleagues on the House Energy & Commerce Committee this morning that “lives are at stake,” a frustrated Congressman Fred Upton has called on them to “stop playing politics with pipelines.”

The root of his frustration stems from the new Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reauthorization bill that was released late Friday night by Transportation and Infrastructure Chaiman Peter DeFazio from Oregon and Frank Pallone from New Jersey. 

During today’s full committee markup, Upton, who serves as Energy Subcommittee Republican Leader strongly encouraged a bipartisan deal on pipeline safety instead of what was offered up on Friday.

Upton delivered the following opening remarks today at the full committee markup, expressing his disappointment in the new PHMSA reauthorization bill:

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“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Today, we have a number of bills before us, but I would like to focus my comments on the new PHMSA reauthorization bill that Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman DeFazio and Chairman Pallone just released late Friday night.

I am disappointed it has come to this. The Administration is opposed, and it doesn’t stand a chance in the Senate the way it is drafted today. After months of bipartisan negotiations, the House Majority has decided to go it alone, and jam through a new partisan bill chocked full of riders and carve outs for special interest groups. We had a deal on 98-percent of the package, and then negotiations stopped.

This is what’s at stake. Legislation to protect public safety and the environment from pipeline accidents has always been a bipartisan issue, beginning with the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968. For over twenty years under divided governments, we put our differences aside and passed these bills by voice vote here in this Committee.

The Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 passed by voice vote. The Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement, and Safety Act of 2006 passed by voice vote. The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Job Creation Act of 2011 passed by voice vote. The PIPES Act of 2016, the most recent reauthorization, also passed by voice vote.

Abandoning our strong history of bipartisanship is irresponsible and reckless. Lives are at stake.  Let’s stop playing politics with pipelines.

As I’ve said many times, I have three major priorities for Pipelines Safety Reauthorization. First, we need to make sure PHMSA and the States have the resources and the inspectors they need to do their job. Second, we have to make sure PHSMA can finish the work it started and complete the overdue safety regulations. And finally, we have to encourage innovation and encourage pipeline operators to share information and learn from their past mistakes.

Unfortunately, this bill falls short. I am afraid some of the attached riders will paralyze PHMSA’s pending rulemakings, encourage backroom sue-and-settle deals with special interests, and send energy prices through the roof.

We all know that pipelines are the safest, most efficient way to transport the critical fuels our economy relies on.

Today, I will offer a substitute amendment that increases PHMSA’s budget and strengthens its workforce. While it doesn’t have everything Republicans are asking for to encourage innovation and implement lessons-learned from prior accidents, my substitute amendment is the only viable path forward. It is the only bill that is likely to be taken up by the Senate and signed into law.

Mr. Chairman, I encourage you to support my amendment, so we can get Pipeline Safety Reauthorization back on track. Thank you, I yield back.”