Daines Presses PHMSA Administrator Nominee on Rail and Pipeline Safety

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Steve Daines today underscored the need to ensure safe and environmentally sound transportation of our natural resources, whether by pipeline or rail.

Daines pressed Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Administrator Nominee Marie Therese Dominguez on the recent oil spills in Montana and the need to ensure public confidence in America’s pipelines. Daines also highlighted the economic impact of the oil, gas and coal industry to Montana.

“PHMSA plays a very important role in Montana.  It’s a big state, and it’s vital to ensure safe and environmentally sound transport of our natural resources, whether it’s pipeline or also by rail,” Daines stated.  “In terms of the connection to jobs, the oil, gas and mining industries directly employ 14,000 Montanans, and they account for about 8 percent of our state’s gross domestic product (GDP), and it’s about half a billion dollars in state and local tax revenue.”

Daines sought assurances from Dominguez that PHMSA will prioritize the safety of the transportation of oil.

“Very recently, Montanans experienced the consequences of rail car derailments and pipeline failures,” Daines said. “In fact, just last Thursday, a train derailed near Culbertson. It released 35,000 gallons of crude oil.  In January, a pipeline ruptured near Glendive and released 30,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River.  In 2011, a pipeline ruptured on that same river, the great Yellowstone, and it released 63,000 gallons of crude oil there by Laurel, Montana.  I know Montanans want to be assured that our pipelines are going to be safe and our rail lines are going to be safe.”

“I think we need to make sure that everything that we do with regard to the integrity of pipelines, is as robust as it possibly can be,” Dominguez responded. 

Daines also called for an increase in transparency on the part of the PHMSA, highlighting the legislation recently passed by the Montana State Legislature to collect information on pipelines that intersect rivers in Montana and make it publicly available online.

“Following these incidents, it’s been important for Montanans to locate information about the pipelines in their communities,” Daines stated. “In fact, the Montana Legislature recently passed a bill to collect information on pipelines that intersect rivers, given that we’ve had these two breaches on the Yellowstone in the last few years, and make sure it’s publically available online.”

“One of the things I would like to work with you on moving forward — is making sure we have as much information as possible about where pipelines actually are in any given community so that it is made available and is as transparent to the public as possible,” Dominguez responded.

Last month, Daines called on the Senate Commerce Committee to convene a hearing on the reauthorization PHMSA to examine the federal government’s responsibility in ensuring safe and environmentally sound transportation of natural resources through America’s pipelines, railroads, highways, waterways and airspace.

Click here to watch Daines’ remarks.

Click here to download Daines’ remarks.