CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Wednesday, June 8, 2016, the House will consider the House Amendment to S. 2276, Securing America’s Future Energy: Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act (SAFE PIPES Act), under suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced on November 10, 2015, by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) and passed the Senate by unanimous consent on March 3, 2016. The House Amendment strikes the text of the Senate bill and replaces it with an amendment. The House Amendment includes provisions of H.R. 4937, the PIPES Act of 2016, and H.R. 5050, the Pipeline Safety Act of 2016, as reported by the Committees.
The House Amendment to S. 2276 reauthorizes the Department of Transportation’s pipeline safety programs and enhances pipeline safety by ensuring diligent oversight of pipeline programs and energy transportation and storage. The bill reauthorizes pipeline safety programs, certain pipeline related state grants, and the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through fiscal year 2019. The bill also provides for various other safety related reforms, including requiring PHMSA to promulgate federal safety standards for underground natural gas storage facilities, to ensure the safety of U.S. pipelines.
The bill authorizes spending of $518 million over the 2016-2019 period for gas and hazardous liquid pipeline and related programs of the Department of Transportation (DOT), which includes 174 million for state grants. In addition, the bill authorizes $88 million from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which includes $32 million for state grants over the 2016 to 2019 period. The bill also authorizes $88 million for the operational expenses of PHMSA over the 2016 to 2019 period. Lastly, the bill authorizes $24 million for underground natural gas storage facility safety over the 2017 to 2019 period.
The U.S. energy pipeline network is composed of over 2.6 million miles of pipeline transporting natural gas, oil, and other hazardous liquids. The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) conducts inspection and enforcement activities on domestic energy pipelines, oftentimes in partnership with state based inspectors, in implementing federal pipeline laws that protect citizens and the environment. PHMSA’s pipeline safety program is funded primarily by user fees assessed on a per-mile basis on each regulated pipeline operator.
The federal pipeline safety program was last authorized through the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, under the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011. The program was funded through fiscal year 2016 under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 .To authorize the federal pipeline safety program through FY2019, the Senate passed the SAFE PIPES Act (S. 2276), and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee reported the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016 (H.R. 4937). The House Energy and Commerce Committee reported the Pipeline Safety Act of 2016 (H.R. 5050), which would authorize appropriations through FY2021. All the reauthorization bills above would fund PHMSA at levels lower than the President’s budget request. The House Amendment contains various provisions found in H.R. 5050 and H.R. 4937, as reported by the Committees.
A recent natural gas leak at the Aliso Canyon Underground Storage Facility in California released 5.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas and caused the temporary relocation of over 2,000 households and two schools. Both the occurrence of the leak, and the length of time it took to stop it, raised concerns about the risks of such facilities and about state regulations to insure their safety. The DOE and PHMSA have since announced an interagency task force to “initiate regulatory actions to help ensure the safety of natural gas storage facilities.” The House Amendment codifies the task force concept into law and requires them to report to Congress on the incident. 
 See CRS Report, “DOT’s Federal Pipeline Safety Program: Background and Key Issues for Congress,” May 20, 2016.
A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost estimate is currently not available.
For questions about amendments or further information on the bill, contact John Huston with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 6-5539.