Tag Archives: Obama

President Obama Approves New Natural Gas Pipeline in Brooklyn and Queens

NEW YORK — A new natural gas pipeline is coming to Brooklyn and Queens, after President Barack Obama cleared the way for it to be built on Tuesday.

The pipeline will run beneath Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways and under Jamaica Bay to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, bringing in more natural gas to serve the city’s growing demand, officials said.

The project required federal legislation — and the president’s signature — because it affects the parkland in the Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes Floyd Bennett Field.

Officials expect the project, which does not yet have a timeline, to generate nearly 300 construction jobs and $265 million in construction activity, a key boon for the local economy following Hurricane Sandy, said U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, who sponsored the legislation that made the pipeline possible.

“This is welcomed news as we seek to rebuild our local economy and our communities,” Grimm said in a statement.

The pipeline will branch off from an existing line that moves natural gas from New Jersey to Long Island, and it will end in a new meter station at Floyd Bennett Field, officials said. The gas pipeline that currently serves that area was built about 50 years ago and is too small to carry all the natural gas the city needs, officials said.

Grimm and other proponents of the plan have promised that the pipeline will not infringe on populated or environmentally fragile areas, but the pipeline has attracted some opposition from local residents and environmental groups, according to reports.

Still, the pipeline’s supporters include the National Park Service, the Regional Plan Association and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“Given the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, this law could not come at a more critical time for New York City,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “This pipeline will help us build a stable, clean-energy future for New Yorkers and will ensure the reliability of the city’s future energy needs.”

SOURCE: http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20121127/new-york-city/president-obama-approves-new-natural-gas-pipeline-brooklyn-queens#ixzz2DWpWpAx4

$67 million requested for pipeline safety

Federal pipeline safety programs would get an extra $67 million and nearly 120 new employees under a proposal President Obama announced Monday that brought cheers from safety advocates pushing to address accidents and growing safety concerns.

The request, part of the president’s $3.8 trillion plan, would almost double the number of enforcement agents nationwide, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The increase also would cover improvements from research to accident investigation to information databases, according to an agency news release.

Pennsylvania safety officials and advocates and the national safety group Pipeline Safety Trust all urged Congress to approve the funding, though Republican leaders have said the president’s budget will be dead on arrival there.

Obama’s plan doesn’t provide a comprehensive solution to several key issues as the state’s pipeline system expands to handle the rush of shale gas, several officials said.

“It is helpful, but there are still huge gaps in pipeline safety,” said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania director of Clean Water Action.

The Obama administration has been pushing for safety system upgrades for more than a year in light of deadly explosions in Allentown, Philadelphia and suburban San Francisco.

Pennsylvania has a growing expanse of pipeline from shale gas development and one of the country’s oldest home heating gas transport and distribution systems. Utility and pipeline companies were spending about $800 million annually going into 2011 to beef up the system, in part to meet increasing federal safety demands.

State lawmakers in December passed rules that will allow them to receive federal funding and hire 12 to 15 inspectors. The Public Utility Commission still wants Congress to pass the increase as part of a general need to improve safety, spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said.

The state has 60,000 miles of pipe, and drillers could add 25,000 miles, according to federal figures and a report from the Nature Conservancy, an Arlington, Va.-based advocacy group. Nationwide, there were 10 pipeline incidents causing six deaths, seven injuries and more than $4.2 million in damage last year, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s online database.
SOURCE: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/s_781486.html

Obama signs pipeline safety bill

On Tuesday, President Obama signed into law a pipeline safety bill that gained momentum after a string of high-profile incidents, including a deadly Northern California explosion in 2010.

The bill, which passed Congress with rare bipartisan support, doubles the maximum fine for safety violations to $2 million, authorizes more pipeline inspectors and requires automatic shut-off valves on new or replaced pipelines “where economically, technically and operationally feasible.”

It does not include a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation to require such shut-off valves on existing pipelines in heavily populated areas. It took utility workers nearly 95 minutes to manually shut off gas spewing from a pipeline in San Bruno, Calif.

The September 2010 explosion killed eight people, injured dozens and destroyed 38 homes. Other pipeline malfunctions have occurred in Michigan, Montana and Pennsylvania.

The call for automatic shutoff values on existing pipelines has faced industry opposition because of cost. Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat who represents San Bruno, has vowed to continue to push for legislation that would require such shut-off valves on existing pipelines in populated areas.

The bill also requires pipeline operators to confirm, through records or testing, the maximum safe operating pressure of older, previously untested pipelines in populated areas.

“This is landmark legislation that provides the regulatory certainty necessary for the pipeline industry to make critical investments and create American jobs,” Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who chairs a House subcommittee that oversees pipelines, said in a statement Tuesday.

“Safety is always of the highest priority and this law strengthens current law, fills gaps in existing law where necessary, and focuses on directly responding to recent pipeline incidents with balanced and reasonable policies…”

The Obama administration is considering stronger measures. California has taken steps to strengthen pipeline safety rules, including requiring automatic shut-off valves in vulnerable areas.

SOURCE: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2012/01/obama-signs-pipeline-safety-bill-.html

Risks for expanding a heavy crude oil pipeline are too high

Within weeks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is supposed to decide whether to authorize a 1,600-mile expansion of a tar sands crude oil pipeline network across six Midwestern, Western and Southern U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. Alternatively, she could pass the decision on to President Barack Obama.

The expanded pipeline network, owned and operated by a Canadian company called TransCanada, would be able to push 450 million to 550 million gallons of heavy tar sands crude per day from a processing facility northeast of Calgary, Alberta, to refineries and ports on the Gulf of Mexico.

The expansion, called Keystone XL, would interconnect with TransCanada’s Keystone 1 pipeline, which phased into operation in 2010 and early 2011. Keystone 1 stretches 2,151 miles from Alberta to Cushing, Okla. It includes a leg that cuts from west to east across Missouri, dives under the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis, connects on the Illinois side to the Wood River Refinery at Roxana and ends at a storage site at Patoka, Ill.

Bitumen, the petroleum essence of tar sands crude, is a heavy, nearly solid substance that requires dilution with toxic solvents before it can move through pipelines. Even then, high-pressure pumps are required to keep the material moving, and friction of the diluted bitumen against the inner walls of the pipes raises temperatures to 150 degrees or higher.

  • At a U.S. House oversight subcommittee hearing in June, Cynthia Quarterman, the head of the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, testified that current integrity standards for oil pipelines do not consider the abrasive effects of tar sands oil. She said no studies of such effects were done before or since the integrity regulations were adopted.
  • In 18 of the last 21 years, toxic liquid spills from pipelines in the United States were greater than 4 million gallons per year. Pipeline equipment failures, installation errors and construction defects were the main reason for half of the spills; 42 percent involved crude oil.
  • In the summer of 2010, a pipeline near Marshall, Mich., operated by Enbridge Energy spewed 843,000 gallons of tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo River. More than a year later, 35 miles of the river remain closed, and estimates of the costs are at half a billion dollars and rising.
  • This summer, an Exxon Mobil pipeline in Montana burst and sent at least 42,000 of regular crude oil into the Yellowstone River. After an initial denial, the company said that the pipeline previously had carried abrasive tar sands crude, raising concerns that corrosion that might have contributed to the failure.

A report commissioned by TransCanada projected the equivalent of nearly 120,000 full-time jobs resulting from the Keystone XL project, although more recently, proponents have been using a figure of 20,000. A State Department analysis projected closer to 2,500 jobs per year for two years.

Project boosters also are touting increased American energy security because tar sands crude would come from Canada, not the Middle East or other trouble spots. But recent TransCanada annual reports to stockholders note that more than 80 percent of Keystone’s capacity already is committed under contracts averaging 18 years, and at least one large purchaser, Valero Energy, has suggested to its investors that much of that heavy crude could be refined into diesel and shipped to markets in Central and South America and Europe.

SOURCE: http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2011/10/11/2077674/risks-for-expanding-a-heavy-crude.html#ixzz1aW3dBfio

House pipeline bill would delay new safety measures

As the President considers whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives would prohibit regulators from implementing safety rules recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The agency charged with regulating the nations 2.5 million miles of pipelines, the Department of Transportation’s Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, became a target for reform as reports detailed the dept’s understaffing and heavy ties to industry.

Lawmakers from communities impacted by the recent disasters promised to strengthen pipeline oversight in legislation to reauthorize federal pipeline safety programs, but action has been slow, and a bill that moved through the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this month is distressingly weak, pipeline safety advocates say.

The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011, sponsored by Bill Shuster (R-PA) requires the Dept. of Transportation to conduct a study on expanding “integrity management rules” for how pipeline operators test and monitor their lines for corrosion and other problems.

Under current rules PHMSA only requires regular testing on lines that run through “high consequence areas” — places that are highly populated or ecologically sensitive.

The Shuster bill prohibits regulators from expanding integrity management requirements beyond high consequence areas.

It also requires regulators to study and report on leak detection systems, but prohibits the dept. from developing new standards for leak detection systems or requiring operators to use them.

As the committee took up and reported the bill on Sept. 8, Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, criticized the measure as a “partisan industry-driven effort.”

“The weak nature of this proposed legislation seems to ignore the specific strong recommendations just a week ago from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the voiced intention of many within the pipeline industry to use the tragedies of the past fifteen months as the impetus to move pipeline safety forward in many areas.”

The NTSB report on the San Bruno pipeline explosion recommended that PHMSA require all operators to equip systems with tools for detecting leaks, require automatic shut-off valves in high consequence areas, require pressure testing for all pre-1970 gas lines and implement enhanced oversight of pipeline integrity management programs.

Shuster’s bill neglects all of these items, Weimer said.

“Just last week NTSB recommended that to avoid more tragedies like San Bruno regulations should be changed to ‘require automatic shutoff valves or remote control valves in high consequence areas and in class 3 and 4 locations be installed,’” he said. “This bill, unlike the bill from House Energy and Power, does not even ask for a study of installing such important valves on existing pipelines through populated communities.”

In July the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power approved pipeline safety legislation that set deadlines for updates leak detection rules and automated valve use and placement, and strengthened guidelines for river crossings, and gas gathering lines.

The two House bills must now be reconciled.

Association of Oil Pipelines President and CEO Andy Black commended the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for “passing a strong reauthorization bills that wisely avoids imposing new regulations without sufficient evidence current regulatory requirements have failed.”

In an open letter, Sens. Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) warned that the House Transportation Committee bill would block important reforms and urged PHMSA to immediately adopt all of NTSB’s latest pipeline safety recommendations.

SOURCE: http://michiganmessenger.com/52610/house-pipeline-bill-would-delay-new-safety-measures