Sharp Budget Knife at Throat of SRFs

April 2011 Vol. 66 No. 4

Shuster also states that based on what he heard in the Allentown accident hearing, he thinks it would be a good idea if the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) or the state Public Utility Commissions set up a certification program for private pipeline inspectors used by companies such as UGI Utilities. "That is not something I want to do for sure," he states, "but I want to take a look at it."

By waiting until the fall, Shuster would likely have recommendations from the NTSB included in a final San Bruno report. One of the surprising revelations coming out of the NTSB hearings was that the fire chief in San Bruno had no idea a 30-inch diameter PG&E transmission pipeline ran through his jurisdiction. Federal laws, amended as recently as 2006, require pipeline owners to educate local communities about the location of pipes. There was some concern even before the San Bruno accident that PHMSA rules on "public education” needed improvement. Those rules essentially site the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) recommended practice (RP) 1162 as the standard for these public awareness programs. In congressional hearings last year, Carl Weimer, accused the pipeline industry of meeting the 2006 requirement by seeing how many "innocuous brochures" they could mail out.

Congress May Prohibit EPA Imposition Of GHG Controls
Seemingly bowing to Republican congressional pressure, the EPA has put off the March 31, 2011, deadline for companies to report greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the agency. Transmission pipelines were to have reported emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other GHGs from compression stations by that deadline if those emissions exceeded 25,000 metric tons in 2010. The EPA had not set a new reporting deadline as of this writing.

The agency said it was extending the deadline "following conversations with industry and others, in the interest of providing high quality data to the public this year." The agency added: "This extension will allow EPA to further test the system that facilities will use to submit data and give industry the opportunity to test the tool, provide feedback, and have sufficient time to become familiar with the tool prior to reporting."

Emboldened by that reporting delay, and by their November 2010 election gains, the GOP is now moving forward with legislation prohibiting the EPA from actually regulating (as opposed to simply reporting) GHG emissions. The Energy Tax Prevention Act (H.R. 910) introduced in March by House and Senate Republicans, with a smattering of Democratic support, would do that.