Montana Politics

Dec 13, 2011 10:32 AM by Marnee Banks (Helena)

MT Congressional delegation backs pipeline safety bill

All three of Montana's Congressional delegates are supporting a bill which increases oversight of pipelines.

This bill comes just months after ExxonMobil's Silvertip Pipeline broke and spewed 40,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River.

The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 forces pipeline operators to assist in investigating pipeline accidents. It also gives the Secretary of Transportation the power to require pipeline operators to upgrade their shut-off valve equipment. It also forces the Secretary of Transportation to maintain a map of all high consequence pipeline areas.

The House passed the measure on Monday with U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg (R-MT) supporting it.

"Montana has so much potential energy, we just need to improve how we harness, refine and transport that energy so we can create jobs," said Rehberg. "Safer infrastructure means more stability."

U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced similar legislation in the Senate. Their language has been rolled into the House version of the bill and the Senate is expected to vote on it this week.

"Part of our job in the aftermath of the Yellowstone spill is using what we learned to help make sure such a terrible accident doesn't happen again. This bill is a good step toward improving our oversight and increasing transparency, so that the folks who live and work along our rivers can keep an eye on the industries and agencies that are supposed to protect them," Baucus said.

"We have a responsibility to make sure our energy infrastructure is as safe as possible, and that safety information transparent and easily available to the public," Tester said. "These provisions are important as Montana expands its energy future, and I'm pleased they have earned bipartisan support."

At the request of Governor Brian Schweitzer (D-MT), the state had already been working with the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to compile a comprehensive list of all the pipelines in Montana, their diameters, the locations of river crossings and shut-off valves.

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