I HAVE today signed the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968. Once again, the interest of the American consumer has been served.
This bill creates--for the first time--comprehensive, complete, and enforceable safety procedures regulating the pipeline transportation of flammable, toxic, and corrosive gases.
It is a bill whose impact will be almost immediate. But most important, it is a bill that looks to the future; that will prevent a serious problem from becoming a disastrous problem in the years ahead.
The use of gas in households and industry has increased sharply in recent years. --Today, natural gas accounts for about one-third of the Nation's total energy consumption.
--Over 800,000 miles of gas pipeline are in operation, nearly triple the mileage of 1945.
--This mileage will increase by 50 percent--to 1.2 million miles--by 1980. There is an operational failure in this network somewhere in the United States about every 5 days. Fortunately, most of the pipeline runs through sparsely populated rural areas, and fatalities due to explosions have been relatively low.
And yet a 1965 explosion in Natchitoches, La., gutted a 13-acre area, killed 17 people, burned five houses, and melted cars and rocks in the vicinity.
Clearly, the danger of such disasters increases with each passing year: --as more and more miles of pipe come into use,
--as existing pipe--some of it still in use after 30 and 40 years--becomes older,
--as the population of our cities moves closer and closer to transmission lines and distribution lines.
In my 1967 message on protecting the consumer, I proposed specific legislation to head off this growing danger. I called for it again in my State of the Union address this year. I am pleased that the Congress responded.
This bill directs the Secretary of Transportation to adopt interim minimum Federal safety standards for gas pipelines within 3 months and to establish minimum Federal safety standards within 24 months.
It represents a major step in protecting the American family against needless danger in using those products and services which enrich life in this country.