Earlier this week Rep. Hahn (D,CA) introduced HR 4624, the Pipeline Inspection Enforcement Act of 2016. The bill would require the inspection of abandoned and transferred pipelines.
The bill would amend 49 USC 60108 by adding two new paragraphs to the section. The new paragraph (e) would require an organization acquiring a pipeline to conduct an inspection of the pipeline within 180 days of the acquisition. The new paragraph (f) would require State or Federal pipeline safety authorities to conduct inspections of newly reported abandoned pipelines to ensure that they are abandoned and presumably drained.
Hahn is a mid-ranking member of the Railroad, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to which the bill was referred for consideration. It is likely that she has the political pull necessary to get the bill considered in Committee. According to her press release on this bill, she has requested that the language from this bill be included in the PHMSA re-authorization bill currently being drafted.
The language in this bill (either as this bill or as part of the PHMSA re-authorization) would likely be adopted in Committee. As part of the re-authorization bill it would certainly be considered and adopted by the full House. As a stand-alone bill, it is not clear that Hahn has the necessary clout to get the bill to the floor.
As a briefly mentioned in an earlier post Hahn’s bill was written in response to an oil spill in her district in 2014 from an abandoned crude oil pipeline. A similar pipeline leak was reported October of last year. The Wilmington leak was from an abandoned pipeline that had been assumed to have been empty.
One would like to assume that a pipeline owner would ensure that their pipeline was empty before officially abandoning it. After all, there would be some value of the material in the line that the owner should be interested in recovering. Obviously, this is not always the case and I suspect that there will be additional crude oil pipelines being abandoned or transferred as the oil industry continues to retrench due to the decline in crude oil prices. Because of the economic situations of the owners, I further suspect that, without legislation like this, there would be a number of these pipelines where all the i’s were not dotted nor all the t’s crossed.