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Regulation of gas pipelines remains lax

ProPublica has a new report that documents the minimal regulations in place for the vast network of gas pipelines that crisscrosses the United States. The system that regulates natural gas pipelines is complex and, critics contend, lax

Jul 31, 2020
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ProPublica has a new reportthat documents the minimal regulations in place for the vast network of gas pipelines that crisscrosses the United States.
The system that regulates natural gas pipelines is complex and, critics contend, lax.
“There isn’t much regulation and it doesn’t really work,” said Rick Kessler, who sits on the board of the advocacy group Pipeline Safety Trust. Kessler is also a federal lobbyist on energy issues, but he does not represent pipeline companies.
To build a pipeline to transport gas from Pennsylvania to New York, company X would have to seek a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and prove that the line is needed. If the company convinces FERC of the need and that the proposed route is appropriate, the government could grant company X the right to seize property through eminent domain if it can’t work out deals with landowners.
If the pipeline were not going to cross state lines a state commission would generally oversee the siting of the line. Texas is one of the more industry-friendly states on siting. It grants companies relatively wide latitude to seize property for new lines.
Once a line is approved, a different agency takes over to handle safety issues. The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration sets minimum safety standards, which states can supplement. If a pipe crosses state borders, enforcement generally falls to the federal government, while most states inspect lines that don’t leave the state.
But whether the regulators are from Washington or the states, “They don’t come out and necessarily walk the pipeline,” said Richard Kuprewicz, a former pipeline engineer for Arco who is now a consultant.
In fact, it is generally the pipeline operators themselves who inspect their own lines and report problems. Most government oversight involves checking the paperwork, making sure that things are up to code.
“It’s compliance with the regulations,” Kuprewicz said. “It’s not, ‘Are you safe or not.’”
The Senate recently passed legislation to strengthen regulation of pipelines, but the House has two separate bills, one of which is considered very weak by pipeline experts. Those bills must be reconciled before final passage.
Camilo Wood

Camilo Wood

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Camilo Wood has over two decades of experience as a writer and journalist, specializing in finance and economics. With a degree in Economics and a background in financial research and analysis, Camilo brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his writing. Throughout his career, Camilo has contributed to numerous publications, covering a wide range of topics such as global economic trends, investment strategies, and market analysis. His articles are recognized for their insightful analysis and clear explanations, making complex financial concepts accessible to readers. Camilo's experience includes working in roles related to financial reporting, analysis, and commentary, allowing him to provide readers with accurate and trustworthy information. His dedication to journalistic integrity and commitment to delivering high-quality content make him a trusted voice in the fields of finance and journalism.
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