Washington Gov. Signs Measure to Boost Oil Transportation Safety in State

Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Friday signed a law improving oil transportation safety to protect state waterways from contamination.

The legislation includes the intent to raise funds that would be used in the prevention of oil spills as well as in the development of tighter preparedness plans that would be followed if oil were to contaminate waterways.

The measure also extends the state's oil barrel tax to pipelines, which currently pays for spill response prevention measures for oil received by train or vessels.

The Department of Ecology must increase coordination with Canadian partners to increase safety, data sharing, and to talk about issues related to reducing oil spill risk and navigational safety.

The DOE must also practice equipment deployment drills every three years for onshore and offshore sites, according to the measure.

The Spokesman-Review

Nebraska Bill Designed to Tighten Requirements for Pipeline Construction Gets Pulled

Nebraskan politician Bob Krist has withdrawn a bill that would have tightened requirements for pipeline construction in the state, including the Keystone XL pipeline, after it was voted 40-7 by lawmakers to be pulled.

The bill was inspired by the Keystone XL pipeline, which most lawmakers support despite the arduous opposition it faces from environmental groups, Native American tribes, and some landowners.

Krist had introduced the bill last week, which was designed to require due process for the taking of private property for private oil pipeline construction instead of the use of eminent domain.

The bill also required periodic payments to landowners for the use of their land and a comprehensive decommissioning plan that involves restoring the property back to its original state once the pipeline reached the end of its life.


Nebraska Bill Aims to Tighten Requirements for Pipeline Construction

Nebraskan politician Bob Krist introduced a bill Tuesday that would tighten requirements for pipeline construction in the state, including TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The legislation would require due process for the taking of private property for private oil pipeline construction instead of the use of eminent domain.

The bill also requires periodic payments to landowners for the use of their land and a comprehensive decommissioning plan that involves restoring the property back to its original state once the pipeline reaches the end of its life.

Under the legislation, any applicant would be required to post a construction and performance bond of at least $100 million.

TransCanada is still deciding if it wants to proceed with construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline through Nebraska after the state Public Service Commission last November approved an alternative route over TransCanada's preferred path through the state.

Lincoln Journal Star

Pipeline Companies Fight to Keep Tax Breaks on Construction Project Costs

Pipeline companies are asking House Republican leaders to adjust the tax reform bill that would drastically shrink tax breaks and limit how much interest they can deduct from borrowing costs on construction projects.

As Congress nears a critical vote on the legislation, pipeline companies are fighting to maintain the tax breaks that allow them to deduct from the borrowing costs of construction projects that take them years to permit and build.

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, which has representatives from pipeline companies like Enbridge and Kinder Morgan, sent a letter House Republican leaders asking them to adjust a provision in the bill that would limit how much they can deduct.

The association wrote that failure to maintain the current deduction limit could result in higher cost of capital for pipeline and other infrastructure projects in the future, which would also raise energy costs for consumers.

Senate and House Republicans hope to send the legislation to President Trump to sign before the end of the year.

Houston Chronicle

Canada Wants Single Federal Authority to Assess Major Pipeline Projects

Canada is seeking legislation to transfer the authority of assessing the impacts of oil pipelines in the country to a single federal group as part of a strategy to help get projects moving.

Plans released Thursday suggest handing over all responsibility for project probes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and taking it away from the National Energy Board (NEB), which the public says is too close to the industry and cannot be trusted.

Right now the responsibility for examining pipeline projects' environmental impact on federally regulated land in Canada is shared among three entities. New plans to transfer that power would help rebuild public trust in how the country makes decisions on important energy infrastructure projects.

Canada's federal government would still hold final responsibility for deciding on a pipeline project.

As Canada remains bottlenecked and struggles to move landlocked crude to its coasts, it is searching for a way to move projects along more quickly as protests and project blockages continue to loom.

Under the new plans, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency would pay more attention to the long-term implications of a project and the views of aboriginals. It would also allow for public comment much earlier in the process.

The government plans to introduce draft legislation later this year and hopes it will become law in 2018.


Senate Bills Require Stricter Great Lakes Oil Pipeline Standards

New laws proposed in the U.S. Senate would mean more liability standards for oil pipelines that cross the Great Lakes, like Enbridge's controversial Line 5 oil pipeline that moves oil 1,098 miles from western Canada to eastern Canada.

The legislation was introduced Wednesday by Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. Peters and Stabenow say the bills are intended to boost safety of pipelines that are in or near the Great Lakes.

Onshore pipelines do not have stringent of liability standards as offshore pipelines, and because pipelines that cross portions of the lakes are considered "onshore," the bills would change that and require operators to cover all oil spill cleanup costs should they occur.

The bills would also strengthen federal authority to shut pipelines due to dangerous conditions, require more review of spill response plans, and increase public access to information on the pipelines.


Legislator Pursues Necessary Changes for Texas' Oil, Gas Regulator

Dallas Democratic representative Rafael Anchia put forth two bills last week aimed at changing the name of Texas' oil and gas regulator and ordering the commission to post all of its data on inspections and violations on its website for the public to view.

This is not the first time efforts have been made to change the name of the Railroad Commission of Texas as legislators and environmental advocates have been requesting it for years. As put forth in Anchia's House Bill 237, advocates believe changing the commission's name to Texas Energy Resources Commission would better reflect the duties of the commission.

Efforts to make the commission's data on violations and inspections available for public viewing have also been pursued over the last several years but have subsequently failed.

The Texas Railroad Commission this year asked lawmakers for additional funding of $45 million to use toward commission improvements including updating its aging IT computer system in order to make it web-based for public viewing. Their current system is 40 years old and outdated, inhibiting the commission to make data readily available for the public to search. The House and the Senate, however, are divided on how much additional spending the commission should receive, if any at all.

Anchia put forth the two bills in the House's Energy Resources committee, which is made up of 10 Republicans and three Democrats.

Fuel Fix

State Lawmakers Aim to Tighten Rules on Oil Transportation Safety

Democratic lawmakers in Washington state are aiming to toughen rules around oil transportation as a way to "stay on top of the changing landscape of oil transportation," according to member of the Washington House of Representatives Jessyn Farrell.

These tightened rules would focus around vessels, trains, and pipelines that transport oil through Washington state as well as through some of the state's waters.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in November approved TransCanada's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which will increase the monthly number of oil tankers and barges in the waters shared by Washington state and Canada from five to 34. Supporters of the legislation see this increase as a posed risk to the shared waters and aim to address it by tightening regulations.

The lawmakers are also aiming to raise more money for spill prevention and response efforts, including the potential need for tug escorts for barges and requiring railroads to show they have the ability to pay for cleanup and damage if a major oil spill occurs.

Another bill being put forth by the group also suggests extending a tax to pipelines that would require a five-cent payment for every barrel of oil received to the state. This tax already applies to vessels and trains.

The lawmakers are confident these changes would help combat the growing risks of oil shipped through the state, noting that the state of Washington has been successful at preventing major incidents because of its proactive approach.

Houston Chronicle

President Obama Signs New Pipeline Safety Bill into Law

By Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project - http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/new_official_portrait_released/, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5767332

President Barack Obama signed into law on June 21 the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016, which sailed quickly through the House and Senate earlier this month.

The legislation is the result of bipartisan work from the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee, and its purpose is to reform the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to increase efficiency and transparency.

Under the PIPES Act, PHMSA is required to set federal minimum safety standards for underground natural gas storage facilities, above which states have the ability to set higher standards for intrastate requirements.

The law also increases inspection requirements for certain underwater oil pipelines as well as updates regulations for certain LNG facilities to keep in line with changing technology and markets.

Along with granting emergency order authority tailored for pipelines, the PIPES Act creates a working group of safety officials and industry stakeholders to put together recommendations for creating an information sharing system to improve safety outcomes. PHMSA also has the authority to study the feasibility of a national integrated pipeline safety database to better oversee federal and state safety efforts.

“We came together, Republicans and Democrats, to improve pipeline safety, and we got the job done with this important law. Every day, American families and businesses depend on safe and efficient energy transportation. The PIPES Act will ensure that our nation’s 2.6 million miles of pipelines continue to provide critical access to energy, and we are proud of the bipartisan work that made this effort a success,” sponsors of the House of the original House legislation responded after the bill became law.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

House Passes Bipartisan PIPES Act of 2016

PIPES ACT of 2016 Banner from http://transportation.house.gov/pipes-2016/

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously approved bipartisan PIPES Act of 2016 to increase pipeline safety, enhance safety oversight efforts, and provide stricter regulations in transporting energy commodities.

The Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016 is a product of both the Transportation & Infrastructure and Energy & Commerce Committees who collaborated text from separate bills passed out of each of the committees in April.

The legislation will improve the safety of the pipeline infrastructure and bring needed reform within the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which will require the agency to be even more efficient and data-driven.

The bill will also reauthorize the federal pipeline safety program within PHMSA for four years, require updates to safety regulations and the increase in transparency, and speed up the process of completing outstanding safety requirements included in the 2011 authorization.

The legislation is awaiting Senate approval and movement toward the President’s desk.

Read the bill summary here.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee