CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal lawmakers will examine pipeline safety issues again this year, this time in Charleston at a field hearing scheduled in the wake of last month's near-disastrous explosion of a NiSource natural gas transmission line near Sissonville.
Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., announced that his committee would hold a field hearing, "Pipeline Safety: An On-the-Ground Look at Safeguarding the Public," on Jan. 28.
"The Sissonville explosion shook West Virginia quite literally, and served as a stark reminder that pipeline safety is serious. And oversight is critically important," Rockefeller said in a prepared statement issued Monday.
The Dec. 11 explosion occurred when a 20-inch diameter interstate transmission line north of Charleston ruptured, exploded and set a wall of fire over Interstate 77. Several people received minor injuries, several homes were destroyed, and the ensuing fire engulfed and damaged a large section of I-77.
The field hearing will give lawmakers a chance to discuss two key pipeline safety reports due out over the next few weeks
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are scheduled later this week to issue their preliminary report on the NiSource explosion in Sissonville. And the U.S. Government Accountability Office, or GAO, is set to issue a study about the ability of pipeline operators to respond to hazardous liquid or gas releases Jan. 23.
Rockefeller said the hearing would also be used as an opportunity to review the Department of Transportation's implementation of the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Job Creation Act of 2011, which was modeled in part on legislation co-sponsored by Rockefeller.
"Passing comprehensive pipeline safety legislation was a good step, but I did push for even stronger provisions in that bill -- and we must assess where implementation of that law stands, and whether future actions are needed," Rockefeller said.