News Releases

Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, on June 10th families in Bellingham, Washington and throughout my home state will mark the two-year anniversary of a pipeline explosion that killed three young people.

That tragic explosion changed three families forever. It shattered a community's sense of security. It showed us the dangers posed by aging, uninspected oil and gas pipelines. That disaster in Bellingham led me to learn about pipeline safety, to testify before Congress, to introduce the first pipeline safety bill of the 106th Congress, and ultimately to pass legislation in the Senate in September 2000 and again in February of this year.

The Senate has done its job. Twice the Senate has passed the strongest pipeline safety measures to ever pass either chamber of Congress. Now it's time for the House and President Bush to do their part.

The bill we passed in the Senate is a major step forward. It isn't everything everyone could want, but it is a significant move in the right direction. Specifically, the bill:

  • Improves the Qualification and Training of Pipeline Personnel
  • Improves Pipeline Inspection and Prevention Practices
  • Requires internal inspection at least once every five years
  • Expands the Public's Right to Know about Pipeline Hazards
  • Raises the Penalties for Safety Violators
  • Enables States to Expand their Safety Efforts
  • Invests in New Technology to Improve Safety
  • Protects Whistle blowers and
  • Increases Funding for Safety Efforts by $13 billion.
Here we are, two years after that disaster in Bellingham and the legislation we've passed in the Senate still hasn't become law. That is inexcusable. The Bush Administration just issued an energy plan that calls for 38,000 new miles of pipeline. As I told the Vice President in a letter recently, before we build thousands of miles of pipelines through our backyards, our neighborhoods and our communities, we must make sure those pipelines are safe.

Unfortunately, the President's energy plan offered some rhetoric about pipeline safety, but no clear progress. I believe he missed an opportunity to articulate the Administration's specific proposals to make pipelines safer. I hope President Bush will agree that we shouldn't replace our current energy crisis with a pipeline safety crisis.

Let me offer three ways President Bush can show his commitment to public safety. The first one is simple. We shouldn't backtrack on safety. Comprehensive new legislation which has passed the Senate and is pending in the House should represent the new minimum of safety standards. President Bush should not send us a proposal that is less stringent than this bill. President Bush should not undo the progress we made last year. And I hope he'll show a sensitivity to safety and environmental concerns that have been absent from his discussions on this issue to date.

Second, President Bush should signal his support of pipeline safety legislation, which I hope will ultimately take the form of him signing a bill into law.

Finally, President Bush's Department of Transportation should continue to issue administrative rules to make pipelines safer. The Clinton Administration took several important administrative steps. I hope the Bush Administration will show the same level of commitment.

We do need to address our energy needs, but not at the expense of our safety. Let's make pipelines safe first, before we lay down more pipelines.

If we learned anything last year, it's that we must not wait for another tragedy to force us to act. We must pass a comprehensive pipeline safety bill this year.

Mr. President, in the coming weeks and months as a member of Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee I will continue to do everything I can to improve pipeline safety by making sure that pipeline regulators have the resources they need to do their jobs effectively.

I know that we can't undo what happened in Bellingham, but we can take the lessons from the Bellingham tragedy and put them into law so that families will know the pipelines near their homes are safe. Two years after the Bellingham disaster they deserve nothing less.