Legislation closes regulatory loopholes and increase safety standards for natural gas companies


Washington (July 31, 2019) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today applauded the inclusion of his Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act in final committee passage of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) reauthorization bill (S.2299)Senator Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, promised the Rondon family that he would work to honor the memory of Leonel Rondon, who died as a result of the September 13, 2018 Merrimack Valley Natural gas pipeline explosions and fires. Senator Markey’s provisions, from his original legislation introduced with Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and led by Rep. Lori Trahan (MA-03) in the House of Representatives, respond to gaps uncovered during his investigation with Senator Warren into the deadly disaster.


Specifically, Senator Markey’s provisions that are included in the PHMSA reauthorization package include:

  • Improve emergency response coordination with the public and first responders, ensuring information is shared and residents are not left in the dark
  • Require the use of qualified employees, such as professional engineers, to approve gas engineering plans or significant changes to the system
  • Promote best industry practices for holistic safety management
  • Mandate on-site monitoring of gas system pressure by qualified employees during construction so that a dangerous situation can be stopped before it happens
  • Require regulator stations – which are critical to preventing over-pressurizations – to be configured in such a way so that there are technological redundancies that can keep disasters from taking place
  • Ensure there are written procedures for responding to over-pressurization and managing changes to the pipeline system, the cause of the Merrimack Valley disaster, including maintenance of accurate, traceable, and reliable maps and records of the pipeline system


“We know we can never bring beloved son and brother Leonel Rondon back, but we can honor his memory by making this bill the law of our land,” said Senator Markey. “I’m proud that the Senate bill includes the Rondon family name so that natural gas companies are on notice that they can never allow another tragedy like this to happen in any other community. These provisions will make sure that there is a culture of safety, not speed, at gas companies. The Merrimack Valley disaster was not inevitable, it was preventable. With passage of this legislation today, we are one step closer to ensuring that no community ever has to experience a tragedy like this ever again.


“I thank Senators Fischer and Duckworth, and Chairman Wicker and Ranking Member Cantwell for their tremendous collaboration to include my bill in the package.”


On November 26, 2018, Senator Markey hosted a Senate Commerce Committee field hearing in Lawrence with Senator Warren, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), then-Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (MA-03), Congressman Seth Moulton (MA-06), and Congresswoman Trahan on the September 13 natural gas pipeline explosions and fires that killed Leonel Rondon, injured more than two dozen, and damaged more than 100 structures.