Ahead of reauthorizing the nation’s pipeline safety laws, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Subcommittee on Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Chair Jeff Duncan (R-SC) sent a letter to Tristan Brown, Acting Administrator for the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The letter “requested details on the implementation of PHMSA’s pipeline safety programs to ensure America’s pipelines continue to transport natural gas, liquid fuels, and feedstocks across the country as safely, reliably, and efficiently as possible.”
The Energy and Commerce Committee has legislative and oversight authority over PHMSA, and the letter represents an attempt to gain transparency from the administration. Energy infrastructure projects, specifically pipeline projects, have been hampered by permitting reform and the weaponization of NEPA. They are the safest mode of transportation for fuels such as natural gas, which the U.S. is expected to increase exports of over the next couple decades.
On May 5th, PHMSA proposed a new rule for gas pipeline leak detection and repair. Under law, PHMSA must conduct a risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis of all new regulations to ensure cost effectiveness, according to the letter from Chairs Rodgers and Duncan. With that in mind, the chairs requested information relating to several questions, such as “how does PHMSA estimate environmental costs and benefits,” and “how does PHMSA define “equity benefits”, a term used in the May 5, 2023, proposal?” These questions, and the many others that the Energy committee chairs ask in their letter, are significant for understanding how PHMSA approaches new pipelines and their regulations. The American people deserve transparency from PHMSA.