Starting tomorrow, May 31, Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) will hold a public meeting on CO2 pipeline safety in Des Moines, IA. Normally when PHMSA holds a public meeting, I put the word “public” in quotes because traditionally these meetings have been geared toward industry and not toward the general public.
For example, PHMSA held a “public” meeting this past December in Houston, with the minimal amount of notice allowed under the law. Naturally, the room was filled with industry leaders who only needed to travel to a different part of town from their office.
To be fair to PHMSA, the public hasn’t been particularly engaged with the type of safety work with which PHMSA is charged. However, CO2 pipelines have led to a level of public engagement on pipeline safety regulations not previously seen.
Several non-profit groups such as Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN), Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Food & Water Watch, Pipeline Safety Trust, and others called for a true public meeting; one that meets the engaged public where they live, listens to their concerns and incorporates them into a new rulemaking, and offers an opportunity to inform the public about what PHMSA is doing as a safety agency to address said concerns.
Remarkably, PHMSA listened to the public and is holding a meeting this week in the heart of an area facing new proposed buildouts of CO2 pipelines – Iowa. I want to take this opportunity to applaud PHMSA for holding this meeting and for holding it near where the impacted public live and work. Thank you, PHMSA! This certainly means a lot to the Pipeline Safety Trust and I know it means a lot to many of the people in the Midwest with a CO2 pipelines planned to come through their property or community.
I know that these pipelines are a charged issue for many. Many people have deep safety concerns for their family and community. Many people have strong feelings about private property being taken against their will for private gain. Many people are worried that CO2 pipelines could be used to keep fossil fuel companies in business when we should be focusing on a true carbon-free future to stave off the worst effects of climate change.
While these are all valid concerns, it’s important to remember that of these concerns, PHMSA can only affect safety issues. PHMSA has no jurisdiction over eminent domain, siting, or broad energy policy.
I want this public meeting to be a success because I would like PHMSA to continue to hold these types of public meetings that are truly for the public. I don’t want to give PHMSA an excuse to not hold a similar meeting again because they didn’t consider this one productive. I would consider the meeting successful if PHMSA heard the public’s concerns, incorporated those concerns into their rulemaking, and the public left with a deeper understanding of PHMSA’s role as a safety regulator and how they can continue to have an impact on pipeline safety going forward.
I would never try to tell someone else how they should advocate for what they believe. I only want to share my desire for a successful meeting and what I hope everyone takes home from Des Moines this week.
I hope to see you there, but know that if you can’t be there in person, you can watch and participate virtually.
You can find details here: