Congress Makes Significant Strides to Support Communities, Enhance Pipeline Safety

News Release December 22, 2020

Washington, D.C.America’s natural gas utilities are pleased to see important energy provisions, community protections and the reauthorization of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) included in fiscal stimulus and government funding legislation passed by Congress.

“This legislation includes a number of important provisions for our nation as we continue to fight this devastating pandemic, including an increase in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding as well as additional rental and utility bill assistance which will provide support to those who need it most,” said AGA President and CEO Karen Harbert. “And we welcome the inclusion of pipeline safety reauthorization which enhances safety and builds on the progress of the past few pipeline safety bills. This legislation renews our federal regulators’ ability to be an effective partner in our ongoing pipeline safety efforts—collaboration that is critical to enhancing the safety of our systems.”

Pipeline safety reauthorization gives PHMSA the funding and authority that it needs for inspections and oversight. The legislation was the result of significant work and collaboration between three congressional committees, the Senate Commerce Committee, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. AGA would also like to thank the bipartisan work of these committees and the bill’s sponsors, including Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ranking Member Same Graves (R-MO), Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Ranking Member Fred Upton (R-MI) and their staffers for their tireless work on this important legislation.

Also included in the legislation are important energy provisions such as the USE IT Act and the BEST Act. The USE IT Act will support carbon utilization and direct air capture research through federal, state, and non-governmental collaboration in the construction and development of carbon capture, utilization and sequestration (CCUS) facilities, and directs the formation of a task force to help develop technology that could capture emissions from industrial activities. The BEST Act supports grid-scale energy storage research and development and improves the efficiency of the nation’s electric grid while helping to align research efforts on energy storage technologies including hydrogen.

The legislation also includes important provisions implementing Pipeline Safety Management Systems (PSMS). In 2019, The AGA Board of Directors approved a resolution recommending that all members implement PSMS, or API RP 1173, a holistic approach to improving pipeline safety that includes the identification, prevention and remediation of safety concerns.

Harbert continued, “Natural gas utilities have long supported the communities they serve, providing safe, reliable energy that customers expect—something that has come into even clearer focus during this pandemic. AGA members have been a constant, providing essential energy to support the work on the frontlines to fight this virus and hot showers and warm meals as we all spend more time at home. Safety is our top priority and we do not wait for legislation or regulation to continue to advance the industry. We are enhancing the safety of our pipeline systems every single day and AGA leads the effort to gather the industry together regularly to share best practices.”

The legislation does not include changes to building energy codes to ban natural gas, a misguided effort to reduce emissions that would result in crippling energy costs. This effort was opposed by AGA and a coalition of businesses that rely on natural gas. America’s natural gas utilities and local public utility commissioners also mounted a successful effort to maintain natural gas service for customers in need by stopping disconnection and debt collection moratoriums.

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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 76 million residential, commercial and industrial natural gas customers in the U.S., of which 95 percent — more than 72 million customers — receive their gas from AGA members. Today, natural gas meets more than thirty percent of the United States' energy needs.