News Releases

Murray's Amendment on Pipeline Safety Before the Senate Budget Committee

Mar 30 2000

Senate Budget Committee Mark-Up Session

I believe that any budget is a statement of priorities, and the safety of the American people must be one of our highest priorities. When the health and safety of the people we represent are threatened, we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to ensure their safety. That's why I'm offering my amendment today -- because the people we represent face a danger from old, aging pipelines.

In my state, we felt the consequences of unsafe pipelines last June in Bellingham, Washington, when 275,000 gallons of gasoline leaked from a crack in a pipeline and flowed into a nearby creek. The gasoline exploded and killed three young men. It destroyed lives. It destroyed our environment, and it ripped a hole in our sense of safety.

I have to tell you -- when I first saw the damage in Bellingham, I thought it was a rare event. I'd never heard about pipelines exploding so I thought they didn't pose a danger, but what I learned surprised me. Since 1986, there have been more than 5,700 pipeline accidents. These accidents caused 325 deaths and 1,700 injuries. These accident have also caused nearly $1 billion in environmental damage.

There are many reasons why the pipelines in our country are not as safe as they could be -- insufficient national and state regulation, a lack of technology, a lack of public information, and a lack of resources. I introduced "The Pipeline Safety Act of 2000" (S.2004) to address these problems.

My bill requires periodic internal inspection of pipelines, national certification of operators, an expanded community right to know, and an investment in the research and development that will help us detect problems before they become disasters. I am pleased that Senators Gorton, Bayh, Lautenberg, and Inouye are co-sponsors of my bill.

This committee can make sure we have the resources to make pipelines safer. There are several areas where this committee may hesitate to provide funding -- the safety of our constituents should not be one of them. The Administration's budget called for needed increases in pipeline safety programs. Unfortunately, this budget resolution rescinds some of those increases. My amendment would ensure that we make pipeline safety a priority in our budget. My amendment would also ensure that through FY 2005, funding for pipeline safety will be at the levels called for in the reauthorization bill I introduced in January.

The Office of Pipeline safety does not have the funds or the tools to do a good job. Currently there are only 49 inspectors to oversee hundreds of thousands of miles of pipelines nationwide

While I think the most of the industry does a good job of regulating itself, recent examples of some less scrupulous operators show that we need stronger regulations and OPS needs more funds to carry out the job it is charged with doing. Many pipelines are getting old. They run under our homes, near our schools, and along our streets. We must prevent another accident like the one in my state from ever happening again. We must give OPS the tools to do its job well.

And we, as members of this committee, must not deny communities across America the resources to make pipelines as safe as they can be. I respectfully ask my colleagues to adopt this amendment. Thank you.

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