WASHINGTON, DC – Last night, the U.S. Senate 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.
“Addressing our aging pipeline system is critical to the safety of our communities,” said Senator Casey. “I am pleased that this bill includes a provision I supported that will help to protect thousands of Pennsylvanians and citizens across the country who live near pipelines. I will continue to push for sufficient resources to conduct inspections, speed up replacement and ensure repairs are made.”
The Pipeline Safety Transportation Improvement Act (S.275) includes language addressing the replacement of aging cast iron pipes. Senator Casey pushed for the language in a letter to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in April. The language would require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a bi-annual survey 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.