Congress should enforce pipeline bill

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Those whose hopes have risen and fallen on the idea that a natural gas industry boom was this close to delivering a major boost to the Mid-Ohio Valley economy are likely beginning to ask themselves “What happened?”

As U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., pointed out recently, West Virginia is suffering under low natural gas prices and an inability to export its product. Natural gas companies have decided to put off drilling any new wells – the Marcellus Shale is in a holding pattern and the Utica Shale has barely been touched – as the glut in natural gas in West Virginia forces their hands.

Meanwhile, other countries and other regions in the United States would love to be able to use the natural gas we are producing.

“We need pipelines,” McKinley said. “And the government is slow-walking the process.”

In fact, it appears as though the federal government is not only intentionally dragging its heels on regulations and permits for natural gas pipelines, it is also moving suspiciously slowly on implementing safety measures that might improve the public’s willingness to allow pipelines to be built.

No one in Washington, D.C., is enforcing the Pipeline Safety Bill passed in 2011. And, of course, it is easier to sit back and watch nervous homeowners put up “Not in my backyard” signs – allow them to do the dirty work of holding up progress for the natural gas companies.

“I don’t want people thinking gas pipelines are unsafe,” McKinley said. “We should make them safe.”

But the Obama administration has no interest in doing so. After all, a safer pipeline network might mean a healthier natural gas industry, and all signs point to natural gas as the next front in the administration’s war against reasonably priced electricity.

If federal agencies responsible for enforcing the four-year-old bill refuse to do their jobs, Congress must force them to do so.

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