WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Monday Congressman Stephen F. Lynch, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, sent a letter to National Security Subcommittee Chairman Steve Russell urging him to hold a bipartisan oversight hearing to examine the state of U.S. pipeline safety and security. 

“As evidenced by the series of hazardous natural gas explosions that occurred in Northeastern Massachusetts and Western Pennsylvania last week, the siting and operation of volatile natural gas infrastructure in proximity to residential communities poses a grave public safety threat that demands robust congressional review.”

“These are not isolated incidents. According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”), last year an estimated 650 pipeline incidents resulted in 20 fatalities and injuries to 35 individuals. In 2018, PHMSA reports that pipeline incidents have already led to at least three fatalities and injuries to 33 individuals.”

The proposed hearing would supplement the efforts undertaken by Members on both sides of the aisle to safeguard the American public against the devastating impact of a pipeline-related public emergency or attack. 

“The vulnerability of residents and communities living in proximity to pipeline infrastructure is even more concerning considering the aging state of U.S. pipeline systems and their increased susceptibility to leaks, spills, and explosions. According to former National Transportation Safety Board chairman and current president of the National Safety Council, Deborah Hersman, approximately one-half of our 2.4 million miles of pipelines nationwide were installed prior to 1970. A 2014 pipeline safety study by USA Today reported that the largest percentage of pipeline systems still operating with deteriorating cast-iron mains “is concentrated in heavily populated areas with a higher risk of catastrophic consequences.”

“Moreover, our pipeline systems have increasingly become the target of cyber and terrorist attacks. As reported by Energy and Environment News in its 2017 series on “Pipelines in Peril,” advanced cyber threats targeting U.S. pipelines have exponentially increased following a pipeline hacking spree undertaken by cyberspies linked to the Chinese military from 2011 to 2012. The theft of sensitive data from at least 23 separate U.S. pipelines constituted the sort of cyber breach that, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, “could allow successful ‘hackers’ to disrupt pipeline service and cause spills, explosions, or fires – all from remote locations.”

Read the letter here.