Washington Watch

Pipeline safety is back on the congressional agenda: in part because of a recent Department of Transportation Inspector General's report and in part because of PHMSA'S failure to finish rulemakings mandated by the 2011 pipeline safety bill.

Congress set up a new federal financing authority for water infrastructure construction.

A federal court decision allowing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to move forward with a rule limiting mercury emissions from power plants has heightened concerns in some quarters about interstate pipeline infrastructure inadequacy.

Henry C. Jackson, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress sent the White House a $12.3 billion water projects bill half the size of its last one seven years ago — before the economy sank into a deep recession that helped swell the government's debt and before lawmakers swore off cherry-picking pet projects for folks back home.

There appears to be bi-partisan support for legislation allowing LNG exports to more countries without the need for Department of Energy approval.

President Obama has once again proposed significant cuts in funding to the federal government's main grant program supporting water infrastructure development at the local level.

A flurry of new water infrastructure funding bills has made an appearance of Capitol Hill.

Two separate challenges have been made to the FERC's Order 787 issued last November. It allowed interstate pipelines and electric utilities to share non-public, operational information with each other for the purpose of promoting reliable service or operational planning on either the public utility or pipeline system.

FERC commissioners still apparently have problems with the pipeline siting improvement bill the House passed on Nov. 21 by a vote of 252-165. The Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act (H.R. 1900) sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) would impose timelines on federal resource agencies when they analyze construction projects which have already finished their environmental review by the FERC.

The federal pipeline safety agency is opening up a new front in its efforts to improve gas and oil pipeline safety. The Integrity Verification Process (IVP) previewed this summer by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) would be an "add-on," and a very costly one at that, to the existing Integrity Management (IM) program which obligates pipelines to test segments in "high consequence areas (HCAs)." There are 18,000 miles of pipeline in HCAs.

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