Citizen’s Committee on Pipeline Safety Saved by Supporters
Thanks to the efforts of the Pipeline Safety Trust and others, Washington State legislators rejected Governor Chris Gregoire’s recommendation to abolish the Citizens Committee on Pipeline Safety (CCOPS) during this year’s regular and special legislative sessions. CCOPS was just one of the 78 statutory committees, boards, councils and commissions on the “hit list” drawn up by the governor’s staff to show her commitment to effective and efficient government.
The governor’s proposals were contained in House Bill (HB) 2617 and its “companion,” Senate Bill (SB) 6426. As soon as House Bill 2617 was scheduled for a hearing before the House State Government and Tribal Affairs (SGTA) Committee, CCOPS supporters began a letter and e-mail campaign to members of this committee, as well as other legislators, urging CCOPS be removed from this bill.
This effort paid off immediately. Literally minutes before Bob Archey, CCOPS chair, and Dick Goldsmith, the Trust’s program director, were to testify at the House hearing on January 21, they were told that the outpouring of support for CCOPS led to its removal from HB 2617. Two weeks later, the Senate Ways and Means Committee took the same action on SB 6426.
When the governor recommends termination or consolidation of an entity, she is required by law to consider eight factors. These include whether the entity has completed its work and is no longer of critical significance to effective state government; whether the group’s work affects public safety, welfare or health; whether the work can be done by another state agency; and the impact termination will have on costs.
Had the governor’s staff carefully evaluated CCOPS, it’s difficult to understand how CCOPS could have been proposed for abolishment. CCOPS has a broad and on-going mandate: “to advise the state agencies and other appropriate federal and local government agencies on matters relating to hazardous liquid and gas pipeline safety, routing, construction, operation and maintenance.” The cost of CCOPS is borne by fees on pipeline operators and amounts to less than $19,000 a year. Furthermore, its pipeline safety efforts within the state have been significant—CCOPS was instrumental in obtaining more funding for the state’s pipeline safety program; it has been working to strengthen Washington’s “One Call” law; and has reviewed specific pipeline failures, remedial proposals, and regulatory responses.
Abolishing CCOPS also would have a profound impact on pipeline safety efforts in other states across the country and at the federal level. The Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 requires the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to respond to recommendations for pipeline safety improvements made by a governor-appointed advisory committee. CCOPS is the only advisory committee of this kind in the nation and the federal government has given careful consideration to its concerns and views