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Video of Sen. Murray's Remarks

(Washington, D.C.) - Today, in an effort to improve pipeline safety, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) introduced the Murray-McCain pipeline safety bill as an amendment to the pending Energy Bill.

Murray and her colleague John McCain are trying to attach the pipeline safety bill to the Energy Bill currently being considered by the Senate.

Murray wants pipeline reforms to be part of the final energy bill.

Unfortunately, the House of Representatives passed its own version of the energy bill which does not include pipeline safety improvements.

If the Murray-McCain amendment passes, pipeline safety would be one of the factors considered when the House and Senate meet to reconcile their energy bills.

The amendment is the same Murray-McCain pipeline safety improvement plan which passed the Senate in September 2001 and February 2002. Minor changes to the bill were made to reflect national security concerns about making sensitive pipeline information publicly available in wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Senator Murray's remarks on the Senate floor follow:

Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I rise today in strong support of this amendment. I take this opportunity to thank the Senator from Arizona, Mr. McCain, for his leadership, his perseverance, and his tremendous work on the issue of pipeline safety.

As he said, many of us became aware of this issue on June 10, 1999, when a gasoline pipeline ruptured in my home State of Washington, killing three young people and really shattering our sense of security.

The Senator from Arizona was tremendous in his work with us as we brought that family here to Washington, DC. As he stated, the community, the mayor, so many people came here. His commitment to follow through with hearings and legislation, and to pass it out of the Senate, has just been really noted and respected in the State of Washington. And like he, I have difficulty standing here and speaking to those families today and telling them the House has still not acted, which is why we are on the floor of the Senate during the energy debate, once again, passing this legislation.

As I said, when that tragedy happened, I discovered that there were inadequate laws, insufficient oversight and inspection, and a real lack of public awareness about the dangers of these pipelines. So I began to work on a national effort to raise pipeline safety standards. I testified before Congress, and I introduced the first pipeline safety bill in the 106th Congress.

As the Senator from Arizona said, we passed legislation in the Senate in September of 2000, and again in February of 2001; and those bills passed without dissent, on a bipartisan basis, with leadership from both sides.

I am proud to have worked with several Senators, including Senators HOLLINGS, INOUYE, BREAUX, WYDEN, BROWNBACK, BINGAMAN, DOMENICI, CORZINE, TORRICELLI, and my colleague, Senator CANTWELL, in this Congress, and my colleague in the previous Congress, Senator Gorton.

But, again, I especially thank Senator McCain for his work on pipeline safety. I have to say that without his attention to this issue over the last several years, I really doubt we would have accomplished what we have so far. I know that all of the advocates and I appreciate Senator McCain's leadership on this issue, and I am looking forward to continuing to work with him on this and many other critical safety issues before us.

The bill that the Senate passed was the strongest pipeline safety bill ever passed by either body of Congress. It improves the qualification and training of pipeline personnel. It improves pipeline inspections and prevention practices. It expands the public's right to know. It raises the penalties for safety violators. It increases the States' ability to expand their safety activities. It invests in new technology to improve pipeline safety. It provides whistle-blower protection. It increases funding to improve pipeline safety. And it recognizes State citizen advisory committees.

Despite the Senate's quick, measured, and deliberate work on this issue, as I stated, and as the Senator from Arizona said, the House of Representatives has blocked progress on this initiative. A couple of weeks ago, the House finally held a hearing on pipeline safety; and that was the first one that was held in 2 years on this issue. I understand they intend to move to a markup very soon, and that is encouraging. I am also encouraged that House Members from the Washington delegation, especially Representative RICK LARSEN, are working really hard to make progress on this issue.

I have to say, unfortunately, that the bill they intend to mark up excludes many of the important safety measures we put into the Senate bill, including strong inspection and testing requirements and adequate operator qualification standards. So overall I remain skeptical that the House will eventually pass a comprehensive bill, and that is why I am especially pleased that Senator McCain has introduced this amendment. I am here to support that effort.

The amendment before us is nearly identical to the bill that has passed the Senate unanimously 2 years in a row. We did, however, make a needed change for national security purposes. September 11 has shown us that our transportation infrastructure is vulnerable to attack by terrorists, so we included a provision that would give the Secretary of Transportation the discretion to withhold public information about pipelines if the Secretary believed it would compromise national security. The standard would be the same as the current one used under the Freedom of Information Act.

I am very proud to cosponsor this amendment. We all know if we want meaningful legislation to move on to the President, it will have to be attached to a piece of legislation such as the energy bill. The history of this legislation in the House requires that we proceed in this manner.

In addition to working on this bill, I am also using my position as chair of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee to keep the pressure up and to secure the funding we need to hire inspectors, to enforce safety regulations, and to support the States with their efforts. I have held several hearings in Washington, DC, and I have questioned the Transportation Secretary and others about our progress on pipeline safety. I have met with the new head of the office that oversees pipeline safety at the Department of Transportation, and I told her exactly what I expect the department to do to improve pipeline safety. I have not hesitated to push the department to issue new pipeline safety rules and regulations.

In my position as chair of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, I worked to pass a bill that provides record funding for the Office of Pipeline Safety. Overall it provides more than $58 million for that office. That is $11 million more than the fiscal year 2001 funding level. That budget included funding for 26 new staff positions, from safety inspectors to researchers. OPS requested those positions, and my bill fully funds those new hires.

Finally, it provides needed resources within OPS for critical testing, safety programs, and R&D. I plan to continue to work in the Appropriations Committee to make sure the funding is there to do the adequate testing and oversight of our pipeline infrastructure.

When it comes to pipeline safety, we have taken a major step forward, especially in funding, but we still have to raise the standards nationally with legislation.

I urge my colleagues to support our efforts to move this critical legislation forward to the President for his signature. From Carlsbad, NM, to Bellingham, WA, communities across this country are counting on us to protect them.