WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswomen Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo Counties) was joined by Congresswoman Janice Hahn (CA-44) today to introduce legislation to hold pipeline operators accountable for destructive and deadly pipeline accidents. The Prosecuting Irresponsible Pipeline Explosions (PIPE) Act would make reckless conduct by pipeline operators subject for criminal prosecution. In the past, pipeline operators have not been held criminally liable because of burdensome requirements for prosecution.

“When a pipeline operator like PG&E has documented disregard of critical safety failures, there should be consequences,” said Congresswoman Speier. “With current liability standards, we cannot hold pipeline operators personally accountable for death, destruction, and injury. There must be repercussions for reckless actions that endanger the lives of anyone living above a pipeline, including eight of my constituents killed in San Bruno.”

“For years, communities which fall victim to destructive and deadly pipeline accidents have been denied justice,” said Congresswoman Hahn. “Pipeline operators have been able to walk away with nothing more than administrative fines.  We have to hold pipeline operators accountable.  Fines of a few thousand dollars are nothing more than the cost of doing business for these companies and are not adequate incentive for pipeline safety.”

Right now, in order for a pipeline operator to be prosecuted, they must be found to have acted “knowingly and willfully,” which makes criminal wrongdoing nearly impossible to prove since so many pipeline accidents are linked to carelessness, poor maintenance, and shoddy recordkeeping. According to the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General, there have been very few pipeline safety prosecutions because of this high bar for establishing a criminal violation. This bill would add “recklessly” to the standards for criminal wrongdoing, qualifying carelessness, poor maintenance, and other issues as components of a criminal charge. Last month, the Inspector General recommended this change in order to enforce pipeline safety regulations and to better protect communities.