Beneath our feet, our roads, and our houses, lie 2.6 million miles of pipelines carrying the natural gas and other resources we rely on to heat our water, cook our food, and fuel our economy. These pipelines are tremendously important, but they can also pose serious safety risks.
Hitting a pipeline by mistake while digging endangers your entire community. In fact, since 2002, excavation damage to pipelines has resulted in 38 deaths, 148 injuries, and more than $190 million in property damage. Many of these incidents are preventable, and our state partners are working hard to spread the safe-digging message.
So today, DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is announcing nearly $1.6 million in grants to 22 different states to strengthen and support their pipeline damage prevention programs.
The Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement and Safety Act of 2006 outlines nine elements of an effective damage prevention program, and the grants we're announcing today will help states continue putting these elements into place.
As PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman said, “Pipeline damage prevention is a key component of protecting people and the environment. These grants will help states continue to focus on preventing pipeline accidents through education, training and enforcement.”
In 2011, I issued a Call to Action, asking the nation’s pipeline operators to identify pipelines that need to be rehabilitated, repaired or replaced to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of our energy resources. PHMSA has taken this call to action very seriously with stepped up pipeline safety oversight activities, increased enforcement actions, proposed data collection initiatives, and aggressive public education efforts.
PHMSA has also hosted pipeline safety workshops for operators and emergency responders, with more than 2,500 participating either in person or online via PHMSA's consistent use of webstreaming to increase access.
And recently, PHMSA announced it is moving forward to implement tougher pipeline safety regulations as part of the Pipeline Safety Act signed by President Obama in January. This law--that we worked hard to get through Congress--raises the maximum fine for pipeline safety violations, authorizes more pipeline inspectors, and requires automatic shut-off valves on new or replaced pipelines.
Can we do better? You bet. And the grants we're announcing today will help us do exactly that by supporting the damage prevention efforts of our safety partners in the states.