WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Congress has passed legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) to improve pipeline safety and address the need to replace aging cast iron pipes like the one that ruptured and caused an explosion in Allentown, Pennsylvania earlier this year. The legislation will now move to the White House to be signed into law.
“I am gratified that this legislation to improve pipeline safety is finally set to be signed into law, and I’m especially pleased that my provision to hold the industry accountable for the replacement of dangerous, aging cast iron pipes is included in the final legislation,” said Senator Casey. “Pennsylvania’s communities deserve to know that pipelines in their communities are inspected and adhere to rigorous safety standards.”
Senator Casey pushed for the language addressing the replacement of aging cast iron pipes in a letter to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in April. The language will require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct regular surveys regarding the replacement and safe management of cast iron pipelines, including the anticipated rate of replacement and the progress that has been made. Senator Casey anticipates that this provision will help keep industry more accountable and speed up the replacement of cast iron pipelines, some of which are over 100 years old in Pennsylvania.
In addition, this bill increases federal pipeline safety inspectors and requires automatic or remote controlled shut off valves for new pipelines. It also closes a loophole that exempts state departments from giving the DOT 48 hours notice of intent to drill. This will help prevent damage to pipelines.
Finally, the legislation requires public access to pipeline emergency response plans and increases civil penalties for pipeline safety violations.
As part of the northeast corridor natural gas pipeline system, Pennsylvania has 7,500 miles of interstate pipelines. There are also 63,000 miles of intrastate transmission and distribution pipelines in Pennsylvania.