Sunday, January 27, 2013

Congressional Hearings – Week of 1-27-13

The House will not be in Washington this week as they ‘work in their district’ listening to voters and raising money. The Senate will be in  town working on legislative issues and conducting hearings. The one hearing of potential interest to readers of this blog, however, will be held in Charleston, WV and will look at pipeline safety.

Charleston was selected because of its proximity to Sissonville, WV the site of a gas pipeline explosion last December. The hearing will look at the implementation of the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 (H.R. 2845). Since that bill was a watered down version of the bill that Chairman Rockefeller introduced (S 275) the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee is sure to take a hard look at the recent accident and an impending GAO report to see if the missing coverage from S 275 could have helped to prevent this type of accident.

In an interesting move for someone that has publicly announced his retirement at the end of this term; Rockefeller has scheduled a resident of Sissonville to present opening remarks to the Committee. Ms. Sue Bonham is an articulate local resident who was personally affected by the recent fire. If this was an election year (and Rockefeller was running) this would be dismissed as a political ploy. Given the political facts, it appears to be a method of personalizing the potential hazards associated with gas transmission or hazardous materials pipelines.

Government witnesses will include a representative from the NTSB, the PHMSA Administrator and a Government Accounting Office representative. The latter is expected to present the latest GAO report on pipeline safety and emergency response capabilities.

The private sector witnesses, beyond Ms. Bonham, will include a pipeline company CEO and the head of the Pipeline Safety Trust. They will almost certainly be presenting opposing views on pipeline safety issues.

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