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Clinton Wants More Pipeline Safety

April 11, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton wants to boost safety requirements for pipeline operators, stiffen penalties for violators and give the public more information about pipeline safety and accidents.

An initiative being unveiled today by Vice President Gore also would give states a larger role in regulating pipeline construction and investigating pipeline accidents.

``The improvements in this bill assure that pipeline operators are more accountable to the public for the risks they impose,″ Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said in a letter accompanying a draft of the proposal that was previewed by administration officials on Monday.

The proposal would create new requirements for pipeline operators in densely populated regions and in environmentally sensitive areas. Operators would have to conduct internal inspections or ``another equally protective method″ to periodically determine the strength of lines, and then act to address any flaws.

Operators would need to share maps, manuals and emergency response plans with local communities to better prepare for emergencies. Information about pipeline accidents and safety-related issues would be made available to the public.

Penalties would be increased. Companies that overpressurize a pipeline, causing the line to fail, could face a fine of $500,000, rather than the $25,000 fine under current law.

Proponents of additional pipeline safety requirements said Monday that Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Jack Metcalf, R-Wash., are the best hope for safety improvements in the short term.

But lawmakers said the bill’s passage will not be easy. Metcalf said he is having a hard time getting colleagues interested in buried pipelines.

``The phrase out of sight, out of mind, certainly applies when pipelines are concerned,″ Metcalf cautioned allies at a conference on pipeline safety.

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