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U.S. lawmakers want tighter pipeline rules

Feb. 4, 2011 at 8:00 AM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. regulators can prevent catastrophic and deadly oil and natural gas pipeline failures with stiffer penalties and more inspections, lawmakers said.

U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., introduced a bill that calls for more oversight to increase the safety of oil and gas pipelines.

Lautenberg said that the 2.5 million-mile pipeline network in the United States was a valuable asset that is "largely safe" but when accidents occur there can be catastrophic consequences.

"We can prevent deadly accidents by requiring more advanced technology, increased inspections and steeper penalties for safety violations," he said in a statement.

More than 40 pipeline accidents were reported in the United States since 2006. A natural gas pipeline owned by Pacific Gas & Electric burst Sept. 9, sparking a massive fireball that ripped through a San Bruno neighborhood, killing eight people. A ruptured oil pipeline in southern Michigan dumped thousands of barrels of oil into key waterways last year.

The proposed legislation would increase the penalty for safety violations from $1 million to $2.5 million and calls for more federal inspectors. Pipeline companies under the bill would have to take additional safety measures with their transit networks.

"Safety should never take a backseat to profit," Rockefeller said in the statement.

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