Urgent Public Protections Should Be Treated As Such – Sen. Jay Rockefeller

Senator Jay Rockefeller speaking

At a Senate committee hearing earlier this week, safety advocates told lawmakers that federal agencies need to do more to make the country’s natural gas and hazardous materials pipelines safer. The Commerce Committee called the hearing after a natural gas line explosion and fire last month in West Virginia. The pipeline involved in the accident was not required to undergo a key safety inspection that could have prevented the explosion.

“It is our sincere desire not to be back in front of this committee again in the future saying the same things after yet another tragedy” said Rick Kessler, president of Pipeline Safety Trust, a group that was started after a fatal pipeline explosion in 1999.

Congress approved pipeline safety legislation last year, and the law requires the Department of Transportation to develop rules to implement the legislation's provisions. Though the rules are not yet under review at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) shared his concern about OMB's track record of delaying, blocking, or shelving important workplace and public safety standards at a press conference before Monday's hearing:

There’s a real worry on my part that the Office of Management and Budget, totally unknown to the American people… is slowing all this process down, maybe anti-rules and regulations in some cases that could affect things like this from not happening again.

Rockefeller’s statement reinforces our concerns about OMB delays during the regulatory review process and the all-too-frequent obstacles that prevent vital safeguards from moving forward. When public protections have the potential to save lives, unreasonable delays in putting them into effect are simply unacceptable.

Image by flickr user SenRockefeller, used under a Creative Commons license.

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