House must take next step on pipeline safety

Message to Washington from the Other Washington: Act now.

There is no time for delay on pipeline legislation. With the Senate having acted on Thursday, the House of Representatives must move to protect Americans from the dangers posed by the poorly regulated pipeline industry.

The House must also take a firm hand in strengthening the Senate version of a pipeline bill.

The Senate did excellent work in producing legislation that gained passage with unanimous consent last Thursday. It’s somewhere between a surprise and a miracle that the Senate managed to act at all. Credit Washington’s Sens. Patty Murray and Slade Gorton with excellent, bipartisan leadership on the issue.

The Senate bill, drafted by Arizona’s John McCain, takes important steps toward better regulation of pipelines. For the first time, states and local communities would have a chance for formal involvement in pipeline safety planning. Other provisions require that pipeline companies:

  • improve training of their personnel.
  • submit pipeline safety plans, including provisions for pipeline inspections.
  • dramatically improve public notification about the presence of pipelines and emergency preparedness.

    The public notification will be a help for many growing communities that are barely aware of a local pipeline — a dangerously common condition that prevailed here in Snohomish County until the Olympic Pipe Line Co.’s Bellingham explosion killed three young people last year.

    The tragic experience with Olympic shows that this is an industry which has indulged itself in perilously relaxed practices. Olympic’s new management deserves immense credit for its early changes, including a promise this week to replace some sections of pipe here. That hardly suggests a wholesale reform by the industry can occur without strong federal action. In fact, the industry seems stuck in a damage-control mindset. Unfortunately, the key federal agency — the Office of Pipeline Safety — is just taking its own infant steps toward gaining credibility. The McCain bill, unfortunately, puts much greater degrees of discretion in the hands of both the OPS and the industry than either has earned.

    That’s why Republican Rep. Jack Metcalf and Democrat Rep. Jay Inslee voiced determination again Thursday to pass a tougher pipeline bill, even while praising the Senate for its impressive work. The local representatives have expressed a desire for Congress to specify regular testing of pipelines, perhaps every five years, and for federal certification of employees. Metcalf and Inslee have done the serious study on the issue to earn careful attention from their congressional colleagues. Metcalf, whose district includes Bellingham, is a member of the Transportation Committee, which would approve any House version of the bill.

    With only a few weeks left in the congressional session, there’s barely time to protect the public. The House must act now. That’s the only chance to allow the 2000 Congress to leave town with a good conscience that they have done their job — to ensure public safety.

    SELECT *

    FROM Talkback

    WHERE Story LIKE ‘../Stories/00/9/10/12941818.cfm’

    AND Dateverified LIKE ‘verified’

    ORDER BY Dateposted

    Talk back

    Talk to us

  • More in Opinion

    Biden's Fiddle, President Joe R. Biden, Debit Ceiling, Federal Debt Limit, suspend, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, economic catastrophe, default, compromise bill, bipartisan vote
    Editorial cartoons for Saturday, June 3

    A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

    Lummi Tribal members Ellie Kinley, left, and Raynell Morris, president and vice president of the non-profit Sacred Lands Conservancy known as Sacred Sea, lead a prayer for the repatriation of southern resident orca Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut — who has lived and performed at the Miami Seaquarium for over 50 years — to her home waters of the Salish Sea at a gathering Sunday, March 20, 2022, at the sacred site of Cherry Point in Whatcom County, Wash.

The Bellingham Herald
    Editorial: What it will require to bring Tokitae home

    Bringing home the last capitve orca requires expanded efforts to restore the killer whales’ habitat.

    Comment: What capital gains tax’s court win means for so many

    The state Supreme Court’s decision makes the state’s taxes more fair and provides revenue to aid many.

    Comment: State’s high court ignores precedent in writing its rules

    In seeking to end ‘systemic racial injustice,’ court’s justices ignore constitutional constraints.

    Comment: Public safety lost ground in this year’s Legislature

    Legislation that would have better addressed racism’s effects on communities was not adopted by lawmakers.

    Kathy Solberg. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
    Forum: Confronting our loneliness to build a Common Good

    Familiar themes in a 32-year-old article provoke thoughts about how we can cultivate relationships.

    Forum: Government needs to get out of the way of business

    Regulations and high taxes are preventing business from providing the goods and services we need.

    Editorial cartoons for Friday, June 2

    A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

    A map of the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    Editorial: Set your muscle memory for work zone speed cameras

    Starting next summer, not slowing down in highway work zones can result in a $500 fine.

    Most Read