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US Senate approves pipeline safety bill

27 October 2011

The US Senate has unanimously approved a pipeline safety bill that would require strength-testing of old pipes and increased fines for safety violations. The legislation was sparked by an explosion last year in San Bruno, California, on a Pacific Gas & Electric Company line.

Investigators blamed the San Bruno blast on weak regulatory oversight. The National Transportation Safety Board said the ‘preventable’ rupture was caused by defective welds on pipeline laid in 1956.

"This bill strengthens oversight and addresses long-standing safety issues that leave the public vulnerable to catastrophic pipeline accidents," said Senator Frank Lautenberg (pictured), a New Jersey Democrat who co-sponsored the bill.

The United States has about 2.3 million miles of pipelines that move oil, natural gas and other hazardous liquids.

The bill requires automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves to prevent oil spills and natural gas explosions, requires faster notification to the government of accidents and leaks, and boosts funding to add more pipeline inspectors.

"This legislation updates and improves policy in several areas, including integrity management and damage prevention," said Don Santa, Chief Executive of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, which represents pipeline operators.

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