SRF Budgets Take Beating, Pipeline Safety In Focus, Fracing Initiative Announced

May 2011, Vol. 66 No. 5

Also in the fall of 2010, in testimony to Congress, Quarterman announced that the PHMSA was considering a host of additional safety measures. Those included identifying additional areas along pipelines that should receive extra protection or be included in the high consequence area category for integrity management protection and establishing minimum requirements for point-to-point leak detection systems. But PHMSA has never proposed actual regulatory changes in those areas via a rulemaking, nor asked Congress for authority to do so.

This year, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on surface transportation and merchant marine infrastructure, safety and security, has introduced the Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011 (S. 275). It does increase PHMSA civil penalties for "major consequence violations" and mandates a regulation to require the use of automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves (or equivalent technology) on pipelines

Obama administration announces fracing initiative
President Obama mentioned a new "fracing" initiative in the energy policy proposal he issued at the end of March. The president wants to increase "transparency about the use of fracing chemicals . . . and develop recommendations for shale extraction practices that will ensure the protection of public health and the environment." That will apparently be done through the Department of Energy's Energy Advisory Board, which meets twice a year and whose members are mostly former high-ranking government and industry executives.

Daphne Magnuson, spokeswoman for the Natural Gas Supply Association, says the NGSA would be happy to work with Energy Secretary Steven Chu on the initiative. "We haven't heard from the department yet," she adds.

Department of Energy officials did not respond to e-mails asking for details about the new initiative.

The Environmental Protection Agency already has a "fracing" study in progress, and it is not clear how the DOE initiative will differ from what the EPA is already doing. At Senate hearings on April 12, Bob Perciasepe, deputy administrator of the EPA, said the EPA study would not present results until the end of 2012. Despite national publicity around the issue of potential groundwater contamination from fracing, none of the witnesses at the hearings in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee presented any evidence to support those allegations.