Washington (August 24, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, released the following statement today after the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to improve safety requirements for natural gas distribution pipelines in the wake of the 2018 Merrimack Valley gas explosions:

“I’m glad that PHMSA is taking this important first step to put critical provisions of my bill, the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act, into effect to protect communities across the country from explosive catastrophes. Gas utilities’ disregard for safety can lead to death, disaster, and months of upheaval, which families in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover experienced firsthand in 2018. This bill is named for Leonel, who died tragically as a result of a Columbia Gas explosion, and today’s announcement is progress in honoring his memory and those who mourn him. My legislation instructed the pipeline safety regulator to take steps to make sure that the networks of gas pipelines running under our streets aren’t ticking time bombs, so no other community has to go through that pain. I look forward to working with PHMSA to get the strongest possible regulations for gas distribution pipeline systems on the books.” 

In 2019, Senator Markey and Representatives Lori Trahan (MA-03) and Seth Moulton (MA-08) introduced the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act to protect communities from unsafe gas pipelines. The introduction followed catastrophic gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts on September 13, 2018, which resulted in the death of 18-year-old Leonel Rondon, dozens of injuries, damage to more than 100 homes, and thousands of homes left without natural gas service for months. This legislation was enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 on December 27, 2020.