Wednesday, April 20, 2016

HR 4937 Introduced – PIPES Act

Last week Rep. Denham (R,CA) introduced  HR 4937, the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016. This bill would reauthorize the Pipeline Safety Regulations (PSR) enforced by DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA). The Senate passed their version of this bill (S 2276) last month by unanimous consent.

S 2276 vs HR 4937

While there are many similarities between the two bills, there are also many differences. S 2276 is a larger bill, containing 11 sections not found in HR 4937. Those sections are:

Sec. 5. Statutory preference.
Sec. 10. Pipeline odorization study.
Sec. 13. Research and development.
Sec. 20. Surface transportation security review.
Sec. 21. Small scale liquefied natural gas facilities.
Sec. 22. Report on natural gas leak reporting.
Sec. 23. Comptroller General review of State policies relating to natural gas leaks.
Sec. 24. Provision of response plans to appropriate committees of Congress.
Sec. 25. Consultation with FERC as part of pre-filing procedures and permitting process for new natural gas pipeline infrastructure.
Sec. 26. Maintenance of effort.
Sec. 27. Aliso Canyon natural gas leak task force.

While HR 4937 is a shorter bill, it also contains a number (5) of sections not included in the Senate version. Those sections are:

Sec. 14. Safety data sheets.
Sec. 16. Emergency order authority.
Sec. 17. State grant funds.
Sec. 20. Pipeline safety technical assistance grants.
Sec. 21. Study of materials and corrosion prevention in pipeline transportation.

Committee Markup

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee met this morning to conduct a markup hearing that included HR 4937. Four amendments to the bill were offered, a Manager’s amendment that included two new sections for the bill, a minor word change amendment from Rep. Sanford (R,SC) and two amendments from Rep. Nolan (D,MN) regarding steel used in pipes. The first two amendments were passed by voice votes (34-25 and 34-25 respectively). The amended bill was approved by a voice vote; this was described as a unanimous vote by the Committee press release.

The two new sections added by the Manager’s amendment include:

SEC. ­___ Research and Development.
SEC. ___ Active and Abandoned Pipelines.

The first closely replicates one of the sections found in S 2276.

Moving Forward

This bill is likely to move to the House floor within the next month or so. The relatively small number of amendments offered in Committee and the voice vote in adoption indicate that the bill is likely to pass with substantial bipartisan support when considered by the whole House. The bill would probably be addressed under a rule allowing debate and limited floor amendments.

Because of the extensive differences between the House and Senate bills, there would likely be a conference committee appointed to work out the differences between the two bills. It is very likely that a conference report could be completed before the summer recess making this one of a relatively small number of bills that would land on the President’s desk before the elections this fall.

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