Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressman Stephen F. Lynch introduced H.R. 2152, the Pipeline and Compressor Safety Verification Act of 2019, to strengthen public health and safety protections during the process by which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) decides whether to grant approval to natural gas systems, such as the proposed Weymouth Compressor Station and West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline. FERC certificates are needed to authorize the approval and operation of pipelines and compressor stations, and H.R. 2152 would add the requirement that the Secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security of Massachusetts, the State Fire Marshal for Massachusetts and the Director of the Massachusetts Pipeline Safety Division sign off on the certificate, stating the project would not pose a danger to surrounding residential communities in order to allow FERC to grant a license to proceed.
“The certification process of pipeline approval and maintenance is outdated and does not reflect the robust safety measures we must consider for high-pressure pipelines placed in densely populated areas,” said Lynch. “I believe it is critical to include the Commonwealth’s top public safety officials in the review process in order to protect residents in the affected areas from poor oversight decisions at the federal level. It is imperative we take precautions to put the health and safety of our public above all else, and in this case it means adding another important step to the process. We have already seen too many tragedies to maintain the same requirements in their authorization procedure.”
There are notable gaps in FERC’s permit process for pipeline approval and maintenance oversight, and H.R. 2152 will help remedy those loopholes. Additionally, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has agreed to host a listening session in Weymouth to examine the serious public safety issues relating to the construction and operation of the proposed Weymouth Compressor Station, which is anticipated to be scheduled momentarily. PHMSA will arrange for regional staff members to attend the hearing to ensure those in attendance are equally qualified and familiar with the impacted area. This has been agreed upon in response to overwhelming and validated concerns of health experts, citizens groups, and residents of the community and surrounding areas. Last year the Merrimack Valley in Massachusetts witnessed a series of explosions and fires as a result of high pressured release of natural gas funneled into Columbia Gas’ low-pressure distribution system, which is one out of the total 633 pipeline incidents that occurred across the United States last year, resulting in 8 fatalities, 92 injuries and $1 billion in property damage.
You can read H.R. 2152, the Pipeline and Compressor Safety Verification Act of 2019, here.