November 20, 2019

Moulton, Kennedy, Trahan Pipeline Safety Amendment Passes Committee

Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act responds to Merrimack Valley explosions

Washington, D.C. – Representatives Seth Moulton, Lori Trahan and Joe Kennedy III today applauded the bipartisan passage of provisions of the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act by the House Energy and Commerce Committee during the markup of the Safer Pipelines Act of 2019. Representative Kennedy sits on the committee and offered the amendment to address many of the glaring loopholes in existing federal pipeline safety regulations that were exposed during the Merrimack Valley gas explosions.

“Leonel Rondon's death was preventable, and no family in America should lose their son or daughter because of a pipeline disaster,” said Congressman Moulton. “It’s up to Congress to make sure this never happens again, and I’m going to keep working with Rep. Kennedy and the rest of our delegation to advance this legislation. The Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act will allow Congress to start holding companies like Columbia Gas responsible for the safety of their customers. It’s a first step to help restore peace of mind in communities across the country who are living in fear that their home, school or business is going to explode because the people responsible for preventing pipeline accidents are asleep at the switch.”

“A little over a year ago, we watched in horror as buildings and neighborhoods throughout the Merrimack Valley caught fire and exploded with little to no warning. Homes were destroyed, neighbors lived in fear and one young man lost his life,” said Congressman Kennedy. “What happened that day could have and should have been prevented. But energy regulators and passive government allowed loopholes to be exploited by a natural gas provider leaving our citizens vulnerable. With the leadership of Congresswoman Trahan and Congressman Moulton, the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act will do more than honor the memory of a man taken from us too soon, it will ensure no other community experiences that same pain.”

“I am proud to represent the Merrimack Valley in Congress. A top priority of mine is making sure that no other community in the United States has to go through the sort of disaster that Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover experienced thirteen months ago. That is why I am the proud House sponsor of the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act. I am grateful to my friend and colleague, Congressman Joe Kennedy – a cosponsor of that important legislation -- for amending the Safer Pipeline Act in the Energy and Commerce Committee this morning to include key provisions of that legislation. I look forward to continuing to work with Representatives Kennedy and Moulton, as well as our partners in the House and Senate to enact this potentially life-saving bill," said Congresswoman Trahan.

The Safer Pipelines Act would make critical improvements to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), bolster funding, increase agency civil penalty authority, and strengthen the criminal penalty standard. Additionally, the bill would require operators to install automatic or remote shutoff valves for liquid and gas pipelines located in high consequence areas and it would codify a 2016 EPA rule that sets limitations on methane emissions.

Specifically, the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act would bolster oversight and regulatory authority over distribution systems throughout American communities. It would require PHMSA to ensure operators have stronger Emergency Response Plans that establish clear protocols to communicate with first responders, other relevant public officials, and the public. It would require rules to strengthen the procedural Operation and Maintenance Manuals used in the course of business. It would also require new rules to strengthen the overall safety of gas distribution systems through Pipeline Safety Practices, including that operators must develop and maintain traceable and reliable records of gas distribution systems to make sure the drawings are available to all relevant employees and regulatory authorities. Finally, it would ensure a qualified professional engineer signs off on any construction plans.