* Transportation Dept would study burying pipelines deeper
* Bill would boost fines for pipeline safety violations
* Full House committee to vote on bill after summer recess
By Tom Doggett
WASHINGTON, July 27 U.S. oil pipelines could be
required to be buried deeper when crossing waterways to avoid
the kind of leak that polluted the Yellowstone River this
month, under a bill approved by a congressional panel on
Pipeline safety has becoming a bigger priority in Congress
after Exxon Mobil's (XOM.N) Silvertip pipeline ruptured earlier
this month and spilled an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil where
it crossed the Yellowstone River in Montana.
The legislation cleared by the House Energy and Power
Subcommittee on Wednesday calls on the Transportation
Department to determine within one year whether current
regulations for pipelines crossing waterways wider than 100
feet (30 meters) are adequate.
Current federal safety rules say pipelines crossing rivers
must be buried at least 4 feet under the riverbed or just 18
inches if rock has to be blasted.
Exxon said it plans to replace the section of the Silvertip
line that leaked and bury it 30 feet under the Yellowstone
The legislation now goes to the full House Energy and
Commerce Subcommittee, which is expected to vote on the bill
after lawmakers return in September from their summer recess.
"The bill demands improvements in both technology and
personnel that can help prevent leaks from occurring in the
first place and reduce the damage if they do," said
Representative Fred Upton, who heads the full committee.
The House bill is similar to pipeline safety legislation in
the Senate, except the Senate bill does not have language on
burying pipelines deeper under rivers.
Both bills would raise fines for safety violations from
$100,000 a day to $250,000, and from $1 million for a series of
pipeline violations to $2.5 million.
They would also require automatic or remote-controlled
shut-off valves to prevent oil spills and natural gas
explosions, require faster notification to the government of
pipeline accidents and leaks and hire more federal pipeline
The United States has about 2.5 million miles (4 million
km) of pipelines that move oil, natural gas and other hazardous
liquids. The death toll from pipeline safety accidents
increased from nine in 2008 to 13 in 2009 and reached 22 last
(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)