Good afternoon. Thank you, Mayor Pawlowski, for your introduction. Thank you Senator Casey and Congressman Dent for your warm welcome to the commonwealth.
Earlier today, I visited the site of Allentown’s deadly pipeline explosion. We just met with some of the people affected and their families – including loved ones of the five who died. It was a powerful experience – and one I won’t ever forget. What happened here in Allentown is a tragedy. But it’s also a call to action.
Today, I’m calling on America’s pipeline owners and operators to conduct a top-to-bottom review of their lines. I’m asking them to identify the oil and gas lines in greatest need of repair. I’m asking them to replace pipelines in critical condition immediately.
I’m also calling on Congress to increase the maximum civil penalties we can levy against companies that commit pipeline safety violations. We need a stronger tool for making sure these pipeline companies do the right thing. And I will be sending Congress legislation that boosts the number of safety professionals available to perform inspections.
At the same time, we at the Department of Transportation are redoubling our efforts on pipeline safety – a fact reflected in President Obama’s proposal for a 15 percent increase in America’s pipeline safety budget. I have personally met with the CEOs of the nation’s major pipeline companies. I have met with the American Gas Association and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. And I am bringing everyone together – cities, states, industry, and safety officials – at a National Pipeline Safety Forum to find ways we can raise the bar on pipeline safety even further.
The bottom line is this: At DOT, safety is our number one priority – whether we’re talking about trains, planes, automobiles, trucks, buses, or pipelines. As I’ve said over and over, when it comes to safety, we will not take a back seat to anyone. People shouldn’t need to worry that when they flip a light switch in the kitchen, they’ll cause an explosion in the front yard. People should have absolute confidence that they can turn on the heat, the stove, or the computer without endangering their families and neighbors.
In all our work – at the Department of Transportation and across President Obama’s administration – we’re rebuilding America’s future. Our utility lines are essential to that future. Together, we can – and must – make them the safest and most reliable in the world. The American people are counting on us to do so.