News Releases

Murray Calls on White House to Include Comprehensive Pipeline Safety Measures in Energy Proposal

May 09 2001

Letter urges Cheney to restore public confidence in the safety of pipeline infrastructure

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – In a letter to Vice President Cheney, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today called for comprehensive safety standards to correspond with thousands of miles of new pipeline that are expected to be unveiled as part of the administration's national energy strategy next week. In each of the past two years, Murray has succeeded in passing legislation in the Senate to improve pipeline safety. This year alone, Murray sponsored the Pipeline Safety Enhancement Act of 2001 and co-wrote the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2001, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

Senator Murray urged the Bush administration to take steps to show its commitment to public safety as pipeline capacity is increased.

"It is my understanding that you are considering relaxing the standards at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to make the permitting process easier for new construction of these pipelines," Murray wrote in the letter to Cheney. "Building this new capacity without, at a minimum, requiring the common-sense safety standards contained in the Senate-passed bill will jeopardize the success of your overall energy plan in Congress."

"There are more than 165,000 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines, and more than 1.9 million miles of natural gas lines throughout the country," said Murray. "These pipelines run near our schools, our homes and our communities. They perform a vital service – bringing us the energy we need for cars, airplanes, and home heating. I understand that we need increased pipeline capacity to serve our nations needs."

But Murray warned that without sufficient safety measures, these pipelines could be deadly. Between January 1, 1986 and December 31, 1999, there have been: 325 deaths, 1,500 injuries, and almost $1 billion in environmental damage due to faulty and unsafe lines. On the average there is one pipeline accident every day in this country, and 6 million hazardous gallons are spilled into our environment every year.

"A major hurdle to building these new lines is the lack of public confidence in the safety of these pipelines. As we rush to site and construct new pipelines we must restore public confidence in their safety. I urge you to include comprehensive safety standards as a pre-cursor for new construction, and I personally ask for your help in pushing the House of Representatives to push a pipeline safety bill that the President will sign."

As if to prove Murray's point about the need for tougher pipeline safety standards, last night one hundred gallons of water spilled from the Olympic Pipeline near Renton.

"The detection of the leak near Renton only underscores the need for strong pipeline safety standards to protect Washington's citizens from potential disasters. It has been 90 days since the Senate vote on the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2001, yet neither the House nor the administration has taken action. We must restore public confidence in our pipelines by making sure this bill becomes a law."

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* A copy of the letter to Cheney follows.

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May 9, 2001

The Honorable Richard Cheney
Vice President of the United States
Old Executive Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20501


Dear Vice President Cheney:

I am writing to you about an issue of great concern to my home state and the nation. As you finalize the administration's national energy strategy, increasing pipeline capacity will undoubtably be a part of your solution. However, the Administration will have a difficult time moving your plan through Congress if you push to build thousands of miles of new oil and gas pipelines without correspondingly requiring greater safety measures for pipeline infrastructure.

I got involved in championing the issue of pipeline safety after a June 1999 accident in Bellingham, Washington killed three boys. A deadly natural gas explosion in August of 2000, in Carlsbad, New Mexico, that killed 12 people, strengthened my resolve to push for stronger safety standards for pipelines.

Over the last two years, I've worked with fellow Members of Congress, the White House, environmentalists, industry and state leaders to strengthen safety standards, hold violators more accountable and provide greater information to the public about pipelines. As a result, the Senate has passed comprehensive pipeline safety legislation unanimously each of the last two sessions. It has been 90 days since the Senate vote on the bill, yet neither the administration nor the House of Representatives have taken any action to see the bill becomes law.

There are more than 165,000 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines, and more than 1.9 million miles of natural gas lines throughout the country. These pipelines run near our schools, our homes, and our communities. They perform a vital service – bringing us the energy we need for cars, airplanes, and home heating. I understand that we need increased pipeline capacity to serve our nation's energy needs.

These pipelines can be very dangerous. Between January 1, 1986 and December 31, 1999, there have been: 325 deaths; 1,500 injuries; and almost $1 billion in environmental damage. On average there is one pipeline accident every day in this country, and 6 million hazardous gallons are spilled into our environment every year.

The entire west is undergoing an energy crisis. Part of the solution to our problem is looking for ways to increase energy capacity. One way to accomplish this is to expedite the building of new pipelines that carry oil and natural gas. It is my understanding that you are

considering relaxing the standards at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to make the permitting process easier for new construction of these pipelines. Building this new capacity without, at a minimum, requiring the common-sense safety standards contained in the Senate-passed bill will jeopardize the success of your overall energy plan in Congress.

A major hurdle to building these new lines, is the lack of public confidence in the safety of these pipelines. As we rush to site and construct new pipelines, we must restore public confidence in the safety of our pipeline infrastructure. I urge you to include comprehensive safety standards as a pre-cursor for new construction, and I personally ask for your help in pushing the House of Representatives to push a pipeline safety bill that the President will sign. The absence of these actions will only further erode the confidence the public has in the safety of our pipeline infrastructure, and without your Administration's commitment to supporting these standards responsible legislators will have a hard time supporting your expansion plan.

In crafting ways to improve pipeline safety, I urge you to look at S. 235, the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2001, which passed by unanimous consent in the Senate on February 8, 2001, and S. 299, the Pipeline Safety Enhancement Act of 2001.

I am eager to work with you on this important national concern. Thank you for you consideration.

Sincerely,

Patty Murray United States Senator