Bruce Kauffmann A Talk with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

The cover story for the June issue of American Gas magazine, titled “Safe & Sound,” is actually an interview with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, among whose many responsibilities is partnering with the natural gas industry to ensure that our natural gas pipeline delivery system, which is the safest energy delivery system in America, becomes even safer.

As far back as February of this year Secretary LaHood had visited AGA’s headquarter in order to talk with our board of directors about how, together, we can improve pipeline safety.  As he said to our board, a first step is to improve communication among all of the pipeline safety stakeholders, which is why in April he hosted the first-ever Pipeline Safety Forum, whose goal was to determine the best methods to “rehabilitate, repair and, where necessary, replace critical pipeline infrastructure”—all to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas to the 175 million Americans who depend on it every day.

As Secretary LaHood notes in our interview with him, the Pipeline Safety Forum was an excellent first step, but only a first step in enhancing pipeline safety, while also making sure that all stakeholders, including natural gas customers, are aware of the individual actions they can take to improve the safety of the pipeline system.  To give just one example, the number-one cause of pipeline incidents is damage done to pipelines by outside excavators, including folks digging or planting in their own back yards, who are unaware that underground pipe lies beneath them.  A simple call to the “Call Before You Dig” safety hotline—just dial 811 anywhere in the country—and you will be alerted to the location of underground pipe and/or wire in your digging area.

As the interview makes clear, Secretary LaHood is a firm believer in interaction, communication and collaboration. “I know that each time we bring people together we learn more,” he says.

By reading this interview, you too can learn more about Secretary LaHood’s views on pipeline safety and how the U.S. Department of Transportation, the natural gas industry and our many other involved stakeholders, both nationally and in each of our 50 states, can more effectively work together to improve it.

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