Tag Archives: Politics

Gov. Corbett: Marcellus betters society

PHILADELPHIA — Gov. Tom Corbett on Thursday placed high hopes on the development of the Marcellus Shale to help him achieve his goals for Pennsylvania.

“I’m convinced that we’re beginning a new industrial revolution for the U.S. and especially for Pennsylvania,” he said at the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s annual Shale Gas Insight Conference in Philadelphia.

By the end of his tenure, which he hopes will be in six years, the governor envisions having accomplished three things.

“I want the state on sound financial footing,” he said. “I want the state to be able to say that every Pennsylvanian who wants a job has a job. And I want every person in this state trained and educated for the jobs of the 21st century.”

The gas industry’s economic contribution to the state is furthering those goals, he said.

“The Marcellus boom isn’t simply about advancing business. It’s about advancing society,” Corbett said.

In fact, during recent travels to Germany and France, the governor touted the region’s cheap energy and strategic location for foreign businesses looking to locate in the U.S.

Corbett said the anti-severance tax crowd was vindicated last week when the state received its first round of impact fee payments that neared $200 million.

“We got that right,” he said. “That’s the difference between throwing together a quick fix and planning for real progress.”

A severance tax would have brought in half of that, he said. Last week, the Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Centerdisagreed.

As convention center security kept watch over the planned anti-fracking protests outside of the building, Corbett also fired some shots at those who oppose natural gas extraction.

“We are advancing even in the face or unreasoning opposition,” he said. “Opponents agree that we can land a rover on Mars, but can’t bring themselves to think that we can safely drill a mile into our own soil.”

The governor also credited shale development with saving one of the three Philadelphia refineries that were on the chopping block at this time last year.

On Sept. 19, Philadelphia Energy Solutions announced its plans to process shale gas at the former Sunoco refinery.

Corbett said he can easily see a time when all three refineries will be turning Marcellus gas into liquid fuels and chemical feedstocks.

The governor apologized to the crowd for missing last year’s conference because of flooding in southeastern Pennsylvania and thanked participants for creating jobs in the state. As he walked out to music resembling the theme from Star Wars, Corbett received a partial standing ovation.

SOURCE: http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/blog/energy/2012/09/corbett-marcellus-betters-society.html?page=all

State Hearing to Focus on Increasing Funding for CA Public Utilities Commission

The California Public Utilities Commission is seeking to add seven new positions to its gas safety division 

A state assemblyman will be leading a hearing today to talk about possibly beefing up state regulators’ ability to oversee pipeline safety in the wake of the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.

Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, who chairs the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Resources and Transportation, will be conducting the hearing from 9 a.m. to noon in the state capitol. The legislators will be reviewing the increased funding the California Public Utilities Commission has received to strengthen its safety oversight and enforcement over gas, electric, communications and rail public utilities throughout the state.

In particular, Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposes a budget of $5.896 million for the commission and increasing its staff to 41 people, which would include seven new positions in its gas safety division and an additional $300,000 to build a gas safety database.

Investigators and critics blasted the CPUC after the PG&E pipeline explosion in the Crestmoor neighborhood because it only had nine inspectors, who were each responsible for overseeing the safety of an average of 11,000 miles of pipeline.

The CPUC has since added nine more safety inspectors—a move that reflects a change in the culture of the commission, according to a staff report that explained the increased funding.

The “CPUC admits that policy objectives took priority over safety prior to the San Bruno explosion,” the staff report said. The “CPUC’s reactive safety strategy, premised on the assumption that utilities recognized public safety as their top priority, was inherently misguided.”

SOURCE: http://sanbruno.patch.com/articles/state-hearing-to-focus-on-increasing-funding-for-cpuc

PHMSA Proposes New Rule to Increase Enforcement of Pipeline Excavation Programs

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has proposed new procedures geared to strengthen excavation damage prevention programs and increase penalties for violators.

Excavation damage continues to be a leading cause of all U.S. pipeline failures and is the single greatest threat to the safety, reliability, and integrity of the natural gas distribution system. Excavation activities accounted for more than 25 percent of fatalities resulting from pipeline failures in the U.S. between 2002 and 2011.

“Safety is our top priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “It is important for states to have strong and effective enforcement programs as we work together to crack down on violators of these important laws.”

The proposed rule will encourage states to strengthen their excavation damage prevention enforcement programs, provide more protection for underground pipelines, and allow for federal enforcement against violators in cases where state enforcement may not occur. Specifically, it would revise and strengthen the federal Pipeline Safety Regulations by establishing:

  • Criteria and an administrative process to determine the adequacy of a state’s excavation damage prevention law enforcement program;
  • Federal requirements that PHMSA will enforce against excavators in states determined to have inadequate damage prevention enforcement programs; and
  • An enforcement process to impose federal fines and penalties for violations.

These new procedures would also address a congressional directive requiring PHMSA to establish procedures to evaluate state damage prevention enforcement programs. By law, PHMSA must establish these criteria prior to any attempt to conduct federal enforcement proceedings in a state where an excavator damages a pipeline.

“Those who violate damage prevention laws must be held accountable,” said PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman. “We will continue to work to strengthen damage prevention laws, partner with states to strengthen their enforcement programs, and impose stiffer fines and penalties for these types of pipeline failures.”

For more details about the proposed rule, including comments received from the agency’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, visit PHMSA’a website at www.phmsa.dot.gov.

SOURCE: http://ohsonline.com/articles/2012/04/10/phmsa-proposes-new-rule-to-increase-enforcement-of-pipeline-excavation-programs.aspx?admgarea=news

US Senate approves pipeline safety bill

The Senate unanimously approved a pipeline safety bill that stemmed from a spate of incidents, including last year’s deadly explosion in San Bruno, California.

The measure had been held up by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who lifted his hold after reaching agreement with Democrats to add a key recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board.

Usually wary of regulatory oversight, Paul said he wanted to strengthen the legislation. His initial objection was that the bill was written before the NTSB completed its report on the San Bruno explosion, Paul said in a statement. “While I am in favor of as little regulation as necessary, if we are going to impose regulations, we should do it right,” he said.

But it does not include an NTSB recommendation to require automatic and remote-controlled shut-off valves on existing pipelines in heavily populated areas, a response to the nearly 95 minutes it took utility workers to manually shut off gas spewing from the San Bruno site. That requirement has faced industry opposition.

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed state legislation to require automatic shut-off valves in vulnerable areas and ensure that gas companies pressure-test transmission lines in California.

“This is a huge step forward for the safety of pipelines and communities across the nation,” said Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), the measure’s chief sponsor. “This bill strengthens oversight and addresses long-standing safety issues that leave the public vulnerable to catastrophic pipeline accidents.”

The amended bill requires that older, untested pipes operating at high pressure — such as the one that exploded under San Bruno — be strength-tested to establish safe maximum operating pressures, Sen.Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said after the vote.

“Simply put, Californians shouldn’t have to worry about streets exploding under their feet because of lax safety regulations,” Feinstein said in a statement.

A similar measure awaits action in the House.

SOURCE: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-senate-pipeline-bill-20111018,0,1199195.story

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul delays widely backed pipeline safety measure

WASHINGTON — Despite industry backing and bipartisan support, legislation to improve pipeline safety is being delayed by Sen. Rand Paul, who contends it shouldn’t be given expedited Senate consideration because it contains new federal regulations.

He also criticized Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for mismanaging the legislative process in an effort to pass the bill quickly.

“I believe legislation should have open debate and votes,” Paul, R-Ky., said in a statement Wednesday. “It need not take weeks. Certainly we could spend an afternoon for the people’s elected representatives to discuss whether they got massive new regulations right.”

The Senate’s Democratic leaders want the bill passed using a fast-track procedure — with no debate and a voice vote when many senators might not even be present — that would allow them to spend most of the dwindling time left in this session on legislation aimed at job creation.

But such speedy passage of bills requires unanimous consent, and Paul is the lone member objecting.

Senate leaders could overcome Paul’s objections by considering the bill under normal Senate procedures — requiring 60 votes to cut off debate. But to do so would require more time.

At issue this time is the reauthorization, through 2014, of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, an agency that oversees the nation’s 2.5 million miles of oil, gas and hazardous materials pipelines.

The reauthorization bill, sponsored by Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Jay Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, includes several new safety provisions adopted after some major pipeline accidents, including one last year in San Bruno, Calif., that killed eight people and injured dozens more. Since 2006, an average of 40 pipeline accidents each year have caused fatalities or injuries.

Paul said in his statement that “absolutely nothing in the current bill would have prevented the recent pipeline problems, or would have prevented the tragedy in San Bruno last year.”

“The bill puts in place new mandates; it hires new bureaucrats,” he said. “But it doesn’t properly diagnose the problem, and it grandfathers in the very pipelines that have had recent problems. It makes no sense. As a doctor, I find it offensive to rush through treatment when you haven’t diagnosed the problem properly.”

Among the new safety steps are increased civil penalties for violating pipeline regulations, new civil penalties for obstructing investigations, additional safeguards for digging around utilities, requirements for shut-off valves in new pipelines, and additional pipeline inspectors and safety experts.

“While our pipeline system is largely safe, when accidents occur the consequences can be catastrophic,” Lautenberg said in a statement in May. “This bill would help to ensure the safety and efficiency of our pipeline network.”

The bill was approved unanimously in May by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and sent to the Senate. Paul is not on that committee.

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, the American Gas Association and the Association of Oil Pipe Lines all back the legislation.

In a July 26 letter to senators, the industry groups said “our organizations support continuous improvement in pipeline safety. (The Lautenberg-Rockefeller bill) would provide legal support for important ‘next steps’ in improving safety.”

The new regulations proposed in the bill would be subject to risk-assessment and cost-benefit analysis, the groups said, adding that the pipeline safety program “is completely paid for by industry — not taxpayers.”

“We thought (the bill) provided a reasonable framework and good congressional guidance for the regulators to go ahead and proceed down a path that would enhance pipeline safety over time,” said Jerry Morris, president and CEO of Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline Inc. in Owensboro, who spoke to Paul about the matter in a June meeting in Owensboro.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., supports the pipeline bill, but also defends Paul.

“Senator McConnell believes that every senator has the right to ask for sufficient time to review important legislation,” said spokesman Robert Steurer.

Paul insisted he was not a roadblock.

“The Senate can deal with and likely pass the new pipeline regulations bill,” he said. “In fact, they could have done so at any time since this bill has been ready since July. Time could have been scheduled for debate and votes during any one of the many weeks we sit here all week with few votes.

“The fact is Senate Democrat leaders woefully mismanage the process in the Senate, leaving days and weeks of ineffectively used time, then asserting that bills need to pass with no debate or vote at all,” Paul said.

Given the broad support for the bill, Reid apparently would have the 60 votes needed to overcome Paul’s opposition, but it could take additional time for passage.

SOURCE: http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20110928/NEWS01/309280085/Kentucky-Senator-Rand-Paul-delays-widely-backed-pipeline-safety-measure?odyssey=tab%7Cmostpopular%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE