Flexing its new statutory muscle, the U.S. government has taken the first step toward implementing a 2011 law that strengthens both pipeline safety regulations and regulators’ authority.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to implement the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011.
Penalties, Enforcement Targeted
The act authorizes PHMSA to double the maximum civil penalty for pipeline safety violations to $200,000 per violation per day, from the current $100,000. It also doubles the maximum fine for a related series of violations to $2 million from $1 million.
|The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 allows higher penalties for federal pipeline safety violations and expands PHMSA's regulatory authority.|
The new maximums would apply to cases that occur after Jan. 3, 2012, the date President Obama signed the act into law.
Other proposed amendments include technical changes and other minor corrections, including returning PHMSA’s authority to enforce the provisions of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. That authority had been transferred to the Coast Guard when the Department of Homeland Security was established.
PHMSA is accepting public comments on the amendments until Sept. 12. Comments may be submitted online, by fax, or by postal mail. Details are available on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
‘Hold Violators Accountable’
PHMSA develops and enforces regulations for the nation’s 2.6 million-mile pipeline transportation system and the nearly 1 million daily shipments of hazardous materials by land, sea, and air. The agency says it closed a record number of enforcement cases in 2011.
“There are 2.6 million miles of pipeline crisscrossing this nation that impact each and every one of us,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Our job at the Department of Transportation is to make sure they operate safely.
“I encourage the public to provide input on this NPRM as we move forward to improve pipeline safety and hold violators accountable.”