Obama 2013 Budget Boosts PMHSA, Cuts Clean Water, SRF

April 2012, Vol. 67 No. 4

Obama administration budget requests for fiscal 2013 for key pipeline regulatory and construction programs are working their way through congressional appropriation committees. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) would receive new funding for additional inspectors, allowing the agency to do more intensive inspections of pipeline safety.

Meanwhile, the budgets at the Environmental Protection Agency for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds would continue their dive.

The PHMSA FY 2013 request is an increase of nearly $75 million above FY 2012 enacted levels. That figure includes $177 million for pipeline safety: an increase of $67 million above FY 2012 enacted levels with that addition going to support the Pipeline Safety Reform (PSR) initiative. The PSR expands the number of inspectors available to provide oversight to the system of pipelines and restructures the partnership between the federal and state entities responsible for enforcement and compliance in managing pipelines. The request includes an additional 150 positions -- 120 new inspectors and 30 program personnel. An additional $20.8 million is requested for state pipeline safety grant programs to restructure the program to ensure standardization among all state pipeline safety programs. Also requested is $3 million to create a formal Accident Investigation Team that will review significant accidents not reviewed by NTSB.

"We have closed a record number of enforcement orders for the past three years, but we have more work to do to,” says PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman. “The 2013 budget request will help build upon these efforts to protect communities and increase oversight over the commercial transportation of hazardous materials by air, rail, vessel, highway and pipeline.”

While it is not clear at this early stage how much of the $57 million increase for pipeline safety congressional appropriators will grant, they clearly will cut the dollars available to the two SRFs. The Obama proposal for EPA overall was $8.3 billion, $105 million below the fiscal 2012 actual budget. The SRFs are the biggest contributors to that reduction, their two budgets being cut a total of $359 million.

The budget proposal calls for approximately $1.18 billion for the clean water state revolving fund, a 19.8 percent reduction from the approximately $1.47 billion enacted in fiscal 2012. The drinking water state revolving fund would see a smaller decrease from $918 million in fiscal 2012 to $850 million in fiscal 2013.