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Senate hearing on oil pipeline regulator scheduled for Billings

Before the U.S. Senate decides the future of the nation’s oil pipeline police — the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration — the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee will hold a public hearing in Billings.

The committee will be in Billings on Sept. 18 to take comment on extending the life of the agency known as PHMSA.

There have been two oil pipeline breaks on the Yellowstone River in the past five years. Together, the disasters near the communities of Billings and Glendive have dumped at least 93,000 gallons of oil into the nation’s longest undammed river.

The Sept. 18 field hearing at the Montana State University Billings library was requested in June by U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who noted that 18,800 of the 2.6 million miles PHMSA regulates are located in Montana.

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“Montanans know the importance of safely transporting our natural resources, whether through pipelines, highways, or rail lines,” Daines said. “This field hearing will allow PHMSA and others in Washington to hear directly from Montanans, local officials and industry leaders about ongoing work to improve safety and create jobs.”

Daines is a member of the Commerce Committee, whose chairwoman, Sen. Debra Fischer, R-Neb., will attend the hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. in room 148 of the Montana State University Billings library.

PHMSA trains both federal and state pipeline inspectors, maintains pipeline safety standards and oversees pipeline construction. The agency’s renewal comes at a time when more than half of the nation’s pipelines are over 50 years old, according to federal data.

There were 5 million gallons of hazardous liquids spilled from pipelines in 2013, according to PHMSA data studied by the watchdog group Pipeline Safety Trust.

In January, a broken True Oil pipeline spilled 30,000 gallons of petroleum into the Yellowstone River, contaminating the drinking water in Glendive, a southeastern Montana community of 6,000. In 2011, a broken Exxon pipeline downstream from Laurel dumped 63,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone.

Witnesses at the hearing will include Todd Denton, president of Phillips 66; John Ostlund, Yellowstone County commissioner; Michelle Slyder, of the Montana Liquid Gas Pipeline Association.

This article was written by Tom Lutey from Billings Gazette, Mont. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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