Saturday, September 24, 2011

S 1596 Would Increase PHMSA Funding

On Wednesday Sen. Murray (D, WA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development of the Senate Appropriations Committee introduced S 1596, the Senate bill that would provide FY 2012 funding for the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Housing and Urban Development and related agencies. Title I of the bill is the Department of Transportation Appropriations Act, 2012.

PHMSA Funding

The bill would provide the following funding for programs of the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA):

• Operational Expenses - $22,158,000
• Hazardous Material Safety - $41,520,000
• Pipeline Safety - $118,364,000

Each of these amounts is greater than the amount provided in the FY2011 budget and the two safety accounts were less than the amount requested by the President. The Operational Expenses account funding is the same amount as requested by the Administration. One would presume that the as of yet not introduced House version of this spending bill would not increase this funding.

Pipeline Design Reviews

Section 180 of the bill would amend 49 U.S.C. 60117 to allow the DOT Secretary to “prescribe a fee structure and assessment methodology that is based on the costs of providing these reviews and shall prescribe procedures to collect fees under this section” {§60117(n)(1)}. Language in the Senate Report filed by the Appropriations Committee notes that “the Committee directs PHMSA to implement the fee within the parameters of section 18 of S. 275, The Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011 as reported by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on July 7, 2011” (pg 90).

Moving Forward

Since all spending bills must originate in the House, this bill will not actually be considered in the Senate. When the House passes their appropriations bill (the DOT/HUD bill is the only spending bill not yet introduced in the House), the language in this bill will be substituted for the House language when the House bill is considered by the Senate. A conference committee would then work out the differences between the two versions of the bill.

That presumes, of course, that a DOT/HUD appropriations bill is passed as a stand-alone measure. The current delays in the appropriation process make it likely that there will be an omnibus bill that would include funding for DOT.

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