Democratic Members of the Science Committee Call on GAO to Investigate California Methane Gas Leak and Pipeline Infrastructure Issues

Feb 12, 2016

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Democratic Members of the Committee on Science, Space & Technology sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting that they examine safety, oversight, and public health issues related to the massive methane gas leak at the Southern California Gas Company’s (SoCalGas) underground natural gas storage facility in Los Angeles, California.  The letter also asks GAO to review issues related to pipeline leak detection capabilities, technical standards, best practices, and scientifically based public health monitoring criteria that can be used to help maintain the safe and effective operation of the nation’s natural gas infrastructure. 

The SoCalGas leak that began last October has raised serious questions regarding the safety of the 400 underground natural gas storage facilities; 305,000 miles of transmission pipelines; and nearly two million miles of distribution pipelines that comprise the U.S. natural gas infrastructure. No federal regulations currently govern the detection or repair of methane gas leaks, although the Department of Interior and Environmental Protection Agency have proposed regulations to help address these issues.  Ranking Member Ms. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) pointed this out in her opening statement at Wednesday’s Full Committee hearing titled, “Midnight Regulations: Examining Executive Branch Overreach.” At the hearing, the Majority’s witnesses appeared to call into question the need for any new environmental regulations.

The GAO methane gas leak review was requested by Ranking Member Johnson; Congressman Donald S. Beyer, Jr. (D-VA), Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Oversight; Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Environment; and Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL), Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Energy.  Members wrote in the letter, “Properly addressing these issues now is critical to the safe expansion of the natural gas infrastructure that has been underway for several years.” They continued, “In 2015 alone, nearly 3,000 miles of newly constructed natural gas pipeline projects were submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for approval. As public officials, with oversight responsibilities for pipeline standards, we want to ensure that the economic livelihood of the natural gas boom does not endanger the lives, human health or safety of the public.” 

To see the full text of the letter, please click here.