Mr LaHood has called upon US pipeline owners and operators to conduct a comprehensive review of their oil and gas pipelines to identify areas of high risk, and accelerate critical repair and replacement work. Mr LaHood committed that the Department of Transportation (DOT) would provide technical assistance in helping to identify high risk pipelines.

Mr LaHood also announced federal legislation aimed at strengthening oversight on pipeline safety, as well as plans to convene a Pipeline Safety Forum on 18 April 2011 in Washington, DC, to gather state officials, industry leaders, and other pipeline safety stakeholders in order to discuss steps for improving the safety and efficiency of the nation’s pipeline infrastructure.

Mr LaHood called on Congress to increase the maximum civil penalties for pipeline violations, to authorise the DOT to close regulatory loopholes, strengthen risk management requirements, add more inspectors, and improve data reporting to help identify potential pipeline safety risks early.

The DOT’s pipeline safety action plan will address immediate concerns in pipeline safety, such as ensuring pipeline operators know the age and condition of their pipelines; proposing new regulations to strengthen reporting and inspection requirements; and making information about pipelines and the safety record of pipeline operators easily accessible to the public.

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The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will also create a new web page to provide the public – as well as community planners, builders and utility companies – with clear and easy to understand information about their local pipeline networks.

“To the American public, it doesn’t matter who has jurisdiction over these essential utility lines. We have a responsibility to work together to prevent the loss of life and environmental damage that can result from poor pipeline conditions,” said Mr LaHood.