Transportation chief outlines risks of aging pipelines

    U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is telling pipeline owners to review their operations and accelerate repairs to aging pipes.

    Speaking Monday from Allentown, LaHood also announced the Obama administration intends to overhaul laws governing oil and gas pipelines.

    LaHood said it’s a challenge overseeing pipelines since so many government levels are involved.

    “There is a patchwork in America for jurisdictional responsibilities for pipelines,” he said. “Including some municipal jurisdictions, including state jurisdictions, including public utility commissions, including the federal government, including utilities.”

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    LaHood is asking pipeline owners to estimate how much it would cost to replace aging lines at risk for rupture. In Pennsylvania that cost is estimated at $15 billion. LaHood would not guess what the cost would be nationwide.

    LaHood said many residents don’t know where lines are until something goes wrong.

    “Many communities in America have been built on pipelines that have been installed, in some instances, a hundred years ago,” he said. “Common, ordinary citizens … should not live in fear of throwing a light switch and causing an explosion in their front yard.”

    He spoke in Allentown because five people were killed there in February when a natural gas pipe installed in the 1920s exploded.

    LaHood will convene a pipeline safety forum April 18 in Washington, D.C.

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