Jeffrey Wiese (center), PHMSA’s associate administrator for pipeline safety, testifies at a hearing on pipeline safety.
“Do I think I can hurt a major international corporation with a $2 million civil penalty? No,” he said.
Because generating a new pipeline rule can take as long as three years, Wiese said PHMSA is creating a YouTube channel to persuade the industry to voluntarily improve its safety operations.
In New Orleans, Wiese said “an under-informed populace highly dependent on fossil fuels” is prone to negative perceptions of the industry. He said that penchant is exacerbated by a press corps that doesn’t “have time to fully understand the story” and has instead served as a vehicle for “gang warfare” through its coverage of events like the March 29th rupture of ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline in Mayflower, Ark.
Congress, Wiese contended, hasn’t done much to help.
“It’s very political in Washington. Nobody wants to try to figure out what’s the best thing to do. They’re thinking about what’s the most advantageous position to take,” he said, later adding that he’d recently had an unpleasant meeting with a “very hot” congressional delegation about the Pegasus spill in Arkansas.
Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., a member of the delegation Wiese was referring to, has criticized the operations and maintenance of the pipeline and PHMSA’s lack of transparency.
“If public officials and Arkansans would have known then what we know now, changes to the operation of the pipeline may have been demanded years ago,” he said.