Senator has introduced Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act to honor son killed last year in Merrimack Valley natural gas explosions and fires


Washington (June 3, 2019) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), released the following statement after the Transportation Department released its 2019 Pipeline Safety Legislative Proposal. In April, Senators Markey, Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Richard Blumenthal (D.-Conn.), and Rep. Lori Trahan (MA-03) introduced the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act, legislation that would strengthen pipeline safety by closing regulatory loopholes and increasing safety standards. The legislation responds to deficiencies uncovered during the investigation into the September 13, 2018 Merrimack Valley natural gas pipeline explosions and fires that killed Leonel Rondon. 


“The legislative proposal released today by PHMSA includes some commonsense provisions that would help avoid disasters like what happened in Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts, but fails to address all the key issues around safety and accountability,” said Senator Markey. “We need a robust safety culture at every single pipeline company. We need companies to have reliable records and effective emergency response plans. We need to be able to impose penalties on bad actors that act as a deterrence against any future bad behavior. We need the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act to ensure we are putting the toughest rules on the books to prevent natural gas pipeline disasters. I will continue to work with PHMSA and my colleagues on the Commerce Committee as it prepares to reauthorize the pipeline safety program this year in order to include my legislation to honor the Rondon family.”


The Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act directs PHMSA to establish regulations that would improve gas pipeline operators’ risk management plans, improve emergency response coordination with the public and first responders, institute best industry practices for holistic safety management, and mandate use of accurate and reliable maps and records. The regulations established by the legislation would also require the use of professional engineers to approve significant system changes and on-site monitoring of pressure regulation stations so that qualified employees could quickly shut off gas flow in the event of an emergency. These regulation stations would also have to have additional safety features to help avoid dangerous over-pressurizations, like the one that caused the Merrimack Valley disaster. Finally, the legislation would raise civil penalty limits to better deter wrongdoing and reflect the costs that safety failures can have on communities.


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-Rep. Niki Tsongas (MA-03), Rep. Seth Moulton (MA-06), and Rep. Trahan. The hearing focused 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.