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Nolan introduces bill mandating American steel for energy pipelines

Flanked by iron and taconite workers in Eveleth on Thursday, 8th District U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan introduced legislation that would require energy pipelines built and federally permitted in the United States to contain 100 percent American steel.

The introduction of the bill on the Iron Range was particularly resonant for about two dozen workers in attendance because it marks the first time American iron ore and taconite workers and mines are included in the federal “Buy American” steel provisions.

“Simply put, this bill requires virtually all new pipelines constructed in America to use materials that are made in America,” Nolan said in a statement. “Our national interest requires that American jobs, America’s environment, and the health and safety of American pipeline workers and citizens be protected from the effects of foreign steel illegally dumped into our marketplace to undermine our domestic iron ore and steel industries.”

Presently, laws require the federal government to procure U.S.-made products for taxpayer-funded projects. But, Nolan said, “We continue to allow federally permitted pipelines to be built with foreign steel.”

In addition to the economic ramifications, the legislation would highlight potential benefits of American steel, which is subject to closer scrutiny than the foreign product, according to the statement. Because pipeline construction relies on eminent domain and is found under everything from schools, homes and communities to farms, rivers and wetland areas, Nolan said the public has a right to insist on higher public safety standards. He believes regulatory agencies are hampered in their efforts to inspect foreign steel pipe manufacturing operations or verify engineering data associated with foreign steel.  

To help remedy that situation, the bill authorizes up to $10 million annually for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to randomly pull and independently test pipeline from stockpiles to be used in the United States rather than be forced to simply accept manufacturers’ safety documentation.The bill has been referred to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, of which Nolan is a member, and to the Energy and Commerce Committee. Action probably would come during reauthorization of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, required by Sept. 30, 2015.

Specifically, the bill would require the Secretary of Transportation and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration — the agency responsible for pipeline construction approval — to improve minimum safety standards for steel pipe used in the United States. Those standards would mandate use of steel produced in the U.S. that originates from iron ore and taconite mined and processed in America. Recycled steel would be permitted provided it includes U.S. iron ore or taconite. Waivers for foreign steel would be permitted only if U.S. capacity is not adequate to meet demand in a given year, the statement said.