Tighter pipeline-safety rules vowed as transportation secretary visits San Bruno blast site 

Every American could look up their neighborhood on a database and find out if it’s sitting on top of a massive pipeline carrying explosive gas, under one provision of a new enforcement order the Obama administration will roll out in August.

The planned new enforcement order was outlined by federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Thursday after touring the site of the Sept. 9 San Bruno pipeline explosion with Congresswoman Jackie Speier and interviewing some of the survivors of the blast.  LaHood oversees the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the agency tasked with overseeing pipeline safety nationwide.

Pipeline operators across the nation will be required to assess the safety of their pipes and fix any weaknesses they find under the enforcement order, LaHood said. The government will also fund an army of new inspectors to make sure safety rules are being followed. Companies found violating safety standards will be charged far more than they currently can be.

LaHood declined to give many specifics of the enforcement effort he said was coming in August, citing legal reasons.  However, he promised the changes would be “strong” and “bold.”  He said the agency would not wait on action from Congress nor even a determination of cause of the San Bruno blast from federal investigators.

“Were not going to stand around and wait for somebody’s report,” he said. “We know what needs to be done. We don’t need anybody to tell us.”

LaHood said he had been moved by meeting the families affected by the tragedy.

“I don’t recall a time in my 35 years of service when I felt as sad as I do today,” he said, before promising to “redouble” efforts to make pipelines safer. Particularly disturbing to him is that many people have no knowledge of the location of the pipelines in their communities, he said.

“We don’t need that in America. We can do better in America. We will do better in America,” he said.

Speier on Thursday announced that she would reintroduce legislation she first authored last year to make pipelines safer and hold pipeline operators more accountable. However, she said, moving legislation through Congress “can be an uphill battle,” so she was hopeful many of the key provisions would be enacted by the Obama administration regardless of how the bill fares.


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