Over the last several weeks, NSPE’s Government Relations staff has been working with congressional staffers on a federal bill to end licensing exemptions for work done on public utility pipelines. The bill is a response to the Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts, incident that occurred in the fall of 2018, in which over-pressurized gas pipelines exploded, destroying several homes and killing one person. In its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board noted that a professional engineer was not required to review or approve construction plans for the pipeline, and it called for the commonwealth of Massachusetts to immediately end this exemption, which it did.This tragedy and issues raised following it have reached the federal stage with the introduction of the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act in both the House of Representatives and Senate.
These companion bills (H.R. 2139/S. 1097), authored by Rep. Lori Trahan in the House and Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren in the Senate, enact guidelines to increase pipeline safety. The bill specifically requires licensed professional engineers to approve plans for any “covered task,” which is defined in existing law as any activity, operations or maintenance, that is carried out on a pipeline and “affects the operation or integrity of the pipeline.” Additionally, the bill does not allow companies to apply for waivers; a licensed professional engineer must review and approve covered tasks.
NSPE continues to work closely with congressional staff to shepherd this bill through the legislative process. Right now, the bill needs a hearing in either the House or the Senate, and NSPE staff is contacting committee members to try and get that done.
Please take a moment to contact your elected officials and express support for this bill. Demonstrated constituent support carries a lot of weight with Members and their staffers, and makes our conversations with them much more productive.