For Immediate Release
June 9, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswomen Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo Counties), today introduced legislation to hold the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) accountable for lapses in pipeline safety oversight. The PHMSA Accountability Act would restore the right of private citizens seek an injunction against PHMSA in order to force it to perform its pipeline safety duties. Speier was joined by Representatives Anna G. Eshoo, Lois Capps, Charles B. Rangel, Brad Sherman, and Paul Tonko in introducing this bill.

“Despite the deaths of eight of my constituents in San Bruno in 2010, Congress continues to rubberstamp PHMSA’s weak and ineffective oversight with each reauthorization,” said Congresswoman Speier. “If Congress will not commit to holding PHMSA accountable, we need to let the American people bring PHMSA to court. I refuse to accept the status quo from the oil and gas pipeline industry that explosions are a cost of doing business. We need to take every possible avenue to ensure that PHMSA fulfills its duties.”

“While I’m pleased the House passed bipartisan legislation to reauthorize PHMSA and prioritize long-overdue rulemakings, the bill failed to include a critical provision clarifying the ability of citizens to force PHMSA to perform its required duties,” said Congresswoman Eshoo. “During the markup of the legislation at the Energy & Commerce Committee, I sought to restore this language which was included in prior drafts of the bill but was removed following industry objections. The PHMSA Accountability Act will restore this important provision and allow communities like San Bruno to force PHMSA to act.”

“While I believe the House’s passage of S. 2276 yesterday was a positive step forward in improving pipeline safety around the country, there is still more to do,” said Congresswoman Capps. “The PHMSA Accountability Act is a common sense bill that would build upon our progress by fixing an important loophole that was not addressed in the larger pipeline safety bill by providing for adequate oversight for PHMSA to ensure that they are doing their job. This bill would provide an avenue for affected communities to help do just that.”

In 2012, the City and County of San Francisco sued PHMSA for failing to enforce pipeline safety standards in the years surrounding the 2010 San Bruno explosion. Last year, however, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Pipeline Safety Act does not allow such mandamus-style citizen suits against PHMSA in order to compel it to perform its regulatory duties. The original discussion draft for the 2016 PHMSA reauthorization contained the PHMSA Accountability Act but it was eliminated after Republican committee leadership and the oil and gas pipeline industries opposed it. This new language, House Amendment to S. 2276 the PIPES Act of 2016, passed the House floor yesterday, June 8, 2016, and is on its way to the Senate for debate.