- - Monday, September 9, 2019

Before I was elected to Congress in 1986, I worked for President Reagan and learned the importance of finding bipartisan solutions to the challenges facing the nation. President Reagan worked across the aisle with the Democrats who held the House throughout his entire presidency. He always fought for what was right — regardless the party. And when the people of southwest Michigan sent me to Congress, I vowed to practice the lessons I learned from our 40th President on every single issue that crossed my desk.

One issue that’s deeply personal to me is pipeline safety. It’s personal to anyone who has had to deal with a pipeline accident in their home state. In July 2010, a pipeline burst and spilled into the Kalamazoo River in southwest Michigan. It was one of the largest inland oil spills in American history, costing a billion dollars to clean up.

Following that incident, we took action and passed the 2012 pipeline safety bill, a result of a bipartisan commitment to ensuring our energy is transported safely and our environment is kept protected. We cut down on the incident reporting time and upped the financial penalties for violations.

In 2016, we came together again to pass another bipartisan pipeline safety bill. I am proud of the work we accomplished with that bill, particularly the language that I was able to include to require mandatory annual inspections for certain pipeline crossings, such as Enbridge’s Line 5, which crosses the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan at a depth of more than 250 feet below the surface of the water.

The 2016 bill is set to expire at the end of this month, and it’s critically important we once again come together to pass a bipartisan bill that will pass both the House and Senate and that President Trump will sign. We have no other choice — we have a responsibility to ensure our nation’s energy is transported safely.

Each year, more than 2.6 million miles of pipelines deliver trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of billions of ton of liquid petroleum products across the nation, powering our homes, our schools and our businesses. Our pipeline network literally fuels our economy. And it’s true that pipelines are simply the most efficient and safest way to transport this energy. But another accident could devastate our environment and threaten the economic well-being of American families. We just cannot take this chance, which makes reauthorizing pipeline safety one of the top issues facing this Congress.

My priorities for a new pipeline safety bill are straightforward.

First, we must ensure that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the states have the resources they need to perform their pipeline safety responsibilities.

Second, we need PHMSA to complete the overdue hazardous liquid and gas pipeline rulemakings.

Third, we need to ensure that PHSMA, state regulators and pipeline operators are incorporating lessons-learned from prior accidents, integrating new technologies and continuing to improve safety.

Finally, as we have done for the past two reauthorizations, we need to work in a bipartisan manner on this issue. Protecting our pipelines, ensuring the safe delivery of our energy resources, and making sure we do right by our environment are too important to let political rhetoric and minor disagreements get in the way of a final product.

Throughout my career, I have stayed true to the lessons I learned from President Reagan. I’ve worked with folks on both sides of the aisle to get solutions to huge challenges, including pipeline safety. I am proud of the work we have done in the past on this issue — it’s one of the bright spots of bipartisanship in Congress when working on an issue of national importance. But we can do better, and I am looking forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to once again get this done this Congress.

Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, is the Ranking Member on the Energy Subcommittee and served as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from 2011 to 2017.

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