AGA Testifies at Pipeline Safety Hearing

News Release May 01, 2019

Emphasizes Work Underway to Maintain and Enhance Safety, Steps that Can be Taken to Prevent Incidents 

Washington, DC - Today, the American Gas Association’s Vice President of Operations and Engineering Services, Christina Sames, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy. Sames outlined the work underway to maintain and enhance the safety and security of the natural gas system nationwide, in addition to the industry’s priorities for Pipeline Safety Reauthorization. 

In her testimony, Sames emphasized three points related to the Pipeline Safety Reauthorization process:

  • The importance of preserving industry engagement in pipeline safety rulemaking by upholding the PHMSA regulatory process
  • The criticality of recognizing that gas distribution systems differ and avoiding one-size-fits-all safety mandates
  • The request that new mandates do not delay pipeline replacements or require replacement faster than can be accomplished safely, reliably and without compromising quality. 

“AGA and its member companies support reasonable, flexible, risk-based, and practicable updates to pipeline safety regulation that build upon lessons learned and evolving improvements to safety and pipeline technology. Following this path leads to the sort of regulatory certainty our industry needs to better serve our customers,” Sames said in her testimony. 

AGA underscored positions on key elements that may be included in Pipeline Safety Reauthorization that impact safety for the industry’s customers and communities:

  • Cost Benefit Analysis. AGA supports the Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee cost-benefit analysis process. To the best of AGA’s knowledge, cost-benefit analysis was not a factor in delaying any regulation. More importantly, cost-benefit analysis protects the public as regulatory costs are ultimately borne by customers.
  • Professional Engineer Licensing Requirements. Qualified individuals are critical in helping attain safe outcomes. For tasks that require an engineer, it is far more important for an individual to have both an engineering degree and knowledge of the natural gas system they are working on over a professional engineer license.
  • Pipeline Safety Managements Systems. The industry believes that PSMS will enhance pipeline safety and improve safety culture if properly implemented. Any prescriptive regulatory requirements to implement PSMS will limit the effectiveness of the continuous improvement cycle and could shift the focus from safety culture to compliance culture.
  • Records Requirement. Data that does not advance pipeline safety should not be managed with the same rigor as data that is essential for pipeline safety. AGA supports traceable, reliable, and complete record requirements for essential records for new or fully replaced distribution pipelines.

Safety is a core value for AGA and its members, who consistently work to raise the bar on safety through a variety of actions, collaboration and events, including the AGA Peer Review Program, benchmarking activities, the development of publications, and industry events like the 2019 AGA Operations Conference & Biennial Exhibition taking place in Nashville this week, that allow for the sharing of leading practices and innovative technologies. 

“AGA member companies are embedded in the communities they serve and interact daily with customers and with the state regulators who oversee pipeline safety locally. The distribution industry takes very seriously the responsibility of continuing to deliver natural gas to our families, neighbors, and business partners safely, reliably and responsibly,” Sames said. “We look forward to continued work with all the key stakeholders as we develop and finalize this critical legislation, keeping focused on advancing safety and avoiding changes that would be counterproductive to the government and gas industry’s mutual interest in the constant improvement of pipeline safety practices and technology and our mutual interest in overall public safety.” 

To read the full testimony, click here.

The American Gas Association, founded in 1918, represents more than 200 local energy companies that deliver clean natural gas throughout the United States. There are more than 75 million residential, commercial and industrial natural gas customers in the U.S., of which 95 percent — more than 71 million customers — receive their gas from AGA members. Today, natural gas meets more than three-tenths of the United States' energy needs.