Earlier this year, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee met to for the first Congressional Hearing on Pipeline Safety Act Reauthorization for 2019.
At last year's Hearing that was held before the same congressional committee, Skip Elliott, an administrator with the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), was questioned as to why his agency had not fulfilled their obligations in terms of the National Transportation Safety Board recommendations and their congressional mandates.
At the latest Hearing, Administrator Elliot addressed these questions.
"When I spoke [here] last year, I heard clearly from [Committee] members that finalizing outstanding Congressional mandates must be a top priority."
The Committee's staff report that was drawn up for the Hearing listed twelve mandates that had not been met, and Administrator Elliot gave written testimony that conceded the PHMSA has yet to meet eight mandates given to it according to the 2011 Pipeline Safety Act reauthorization, as well as another four mandates afforded to it from the 2016 Pipeline Safety Act reauthorization.
Of these twelve outstanding mandates, four are related to outstanding reports, while eight are related to rulemaking. According to Jennifer Homendy, member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the board currently has twenty-four recommendations to the PHMSA, several of which are considered top priority in terms of urgency of completion, which remain open and have not yet been addressed.
According to Administrator Elliott, the reason for the delay in fulfilling all the mandates can be attributed to the fact that "rulemaking is an iterative process, with lots of steps along the way." However, Representative Lipinski, representing Ward D- Illinois, Chairman of the Subcommittee, challenged Elliott, asking him to provide more information on the reasons for the delay, and to explain the reason why so many employees from the Department of Transportation, who lack specialized knowledge in pipelines, have to review the draft rulemakings.
Jennifer Homendy stated that she felt that the rulemaking process at the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation needs to be more transparent as it is currently difficult to ascertain "where a rulemaking is at with PHMSA, and at what stage in the process."
Administrator Elliott also noted that as the PHMSA works towards completing its Congressional mandates and implementing NTSB Recommendations, rulemaking efforts adhere to recommendations listed in Executive Orders 13711, 13777 and 13783 issued in 2017 by the current Administration in an effort to deregulate and reform regulatory standards, that regulations should be kept to no more than what is necessary and that those regulations should be sized in such a way that they have the highest safety impact while also encouraging further investment in safety research and the development of safety technology.
Featured Image by Craig McCaa/BLM Alaska (CC BY 2.0)