Sharp Budget Knife at Throat of SRFs

April 2011 Vol. 66 No. 4

The Obama administration is arguing that small SRF appropriations will be augmented by a Sustainable Water Infrastructure Policy that focuses on working with states and communities to enhance technical, managerial and financial capacity. That policy will focus on convincing states, cities and counties to expand "green infrastructure" options instead of building "bricks and mortar" infrastructure. In that way the EPA can "adjust" future year SRF budgets, with the goal of providing, on average, about five percent of water infrastructure spending annually.

Shuster to support change to integrity program
Pipeline safety hearings were the rage in early March. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held hearings March 1-3 on last year's PG&E explosion in San Bruno, CA. Then on March 7, the House subcommittee on railroads, pipelines and hazardous materials held a hearing in King of Prussia, PA, focusing on the explosion of a12-inch diameter main in Allentown, PA, owned by UGI Utilities, Inc. Five people died in that accident. Eight people died in San Bruno. A preliminary NTSB report hypothesized that the cause may have been a weld on a 30-inch transmission pipeline which blew apart.

In an interview, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House pipeline subcommittee, who scheduled the Pennsylvania hearing, says it is still unclear what caused the accidents in California and Pennsylvania. Shuster adds that he plans to introduce a pipeline safety bill this fall and fight any Obama administration attempt to include pipeline safety changes in a highway bill, which could move through Congress sooner. Congress has temporarily extended highway programs with short-term bills, the latest passed in March, which were necessary to prevent federal highway programs from stopping dead in their tracks. The latest extension lasts until the end of September by which time Congress will consider a major highway bill. The Obama administration is pushing to include pipeline provisions in that highway bill. Shuster says he opposes that strategy. However, House and Senate efforts to pass stand alone pipeline safety bills went nowhere in 2010.

Moreover, Shuster explains that he plans to propose to change the gas transmission integrity management program so that pipelines re-inspect segments in high consequence areas (HCAs) based on the risk of the pipeline. Currently, pipelines are re-inspected based on a specified timeline. INGAA has been pressing for five years for a risk-based re-inspection program, without any luck in Congress. But Shuster appears ready to pick up that gauntlet.