What You Need to Know About the Senate’s Pipeline Safety Reauthorization Bill

The Senate released its four-year pipeline safety reauthorization bill this week. Here are three things you should know about the bill, the Securing America’s Future Energy: Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety ( SAFE PIPES) Act:


  1. Pipeline safety programs would have a lower cap for funding. In Fiscal Year 2015, Congress appropriated $146 million, up nearly $27 million from the actual funding levels in FY 2014. Now the maximum allowable funding level for these programs in FY 2016 would be $127 million, increasing each year through 2019 to hit $135 million.
  2. Existing mandates and certain “significant” rules already begun would generally need to be completed before new rules could be started. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration—where the pipeline safety programs are housed—received a long list of mandates during its 2012 reauthorization. The agency still hasn’t completed all of them. Industry and pipeline safety watchdog groups called for few or no new mandates to be added during this reauthorization. Congress appears, in many ways, to have complied. This could be lawmakers’ way of saying, “Get it done.”
  3. A hodgepodge of studies, reviews, rules and other mandates are required. For example, PHMSA would be required to develop rules for underground natural gas storage facilities, and to add a user fee for them; to consider the impact or worst-case scenario of any hazardous liquid discharge into certain waters or shorelines; and to deem the Great Lakes a “USA ecological resource,” essentially ensuring more stringent pipeline safety requirements for those waters.


The pipeline reauthorization proposal comes more than a month after the previous pipeline safety law expired. It isn’t immediately clear how quickly the Senate will take up its bill.