WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, whose department oversees the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), has promised to repeal the outside funding requirement of land-based pipeline safety studies after a reporter briefed his spokeswoman on the findings of an investigation by Hearst Newspapers.
"Secretary LaHood believes that credible, independent research is a crucial component of the Department of Transportation's safety agenda, and he has directed the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to end the practice of using industry resources to help finance research," spokeswoman Olivia Alair said.
According to the Hearst story, U.S. gas pipeline operators and their trade organizations shaped, managed and provided sizable funding for numerous safety studies conducted by the federal agency that regulates the industry.
The Hearst investigation revealed that two-thirds of the 174 safety studies of land-based pipelines that the federal agency has launched in the last decade were largely funded by pipeline operators or organizations they control. That's because the agency has required that in most cases, at least half the funding for its pipeline safety research come from outside sources - a policy that the Obama administration is now promising to change.