As part of PIPES Act, Senate passes Markey legislation to close regulatory loopholes and increase safety standards for natural gas companies


Washington (August 7, 2020) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and Environment and Public Works Committee, commended the Senate passage of the PIPES Act (S. 2299), which included his Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act (S.1097) as Title II of the bill. The legislation to reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) includes provisions drafted in response to the catastrophic explosions in 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.


In April 2019, Senators Markey and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Rep. Lori Trahan (MA-03) introduced the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act. The bulk of their legislation passed out of the Senator Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in July 2019 and the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee in November 2019


“We work to honor the memory of Leonel Rondon by passing this legislation that bears his name,” said Senator Markey. “No family and no community should ever have to suffer a tragedy like the one that struck Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover in September 2018. The natural gas explosions were preventable, caused by carelessness, lax oversight, and the prioritization of profit over public safety. The passage of this legislation through the Senate is a critical step toward accountability for bad actors and safer systems for all.”


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

  • 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 traceable, reliable, and complete maps and records of the pipeline system


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.