Separately Monday, several environmental groups called on the federal government to conduct a comprehensive federal analysis of Marcellus Shale drilling in the six bay-watershed states, including Pennsylvania.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation said it had filed a petition under the National Environmental Policy Act calling for a review known as a programmatic environmental impact statement. The petition was signed by a number of environmental groups. Drilling assessments are under way, but none is comprehensive, the groups said.
Although the number of pipeline-related accidents resulting in serious injury or death has been cut nearly in half over the last two decades, LaHood said, the Allentown blast and other recent catastrophic explosions showed that pipeline companies needed to do more.
In September, a 44-year-old gas-transmission line ruptured in San Bruno, Calif., killing eight people, injuring dozens, and leaving 55 homes uninhabitable. Investigators said the pipe had flawed welds. And in Philadelphia in January, a gas-main explosion sent a 50-foot fireball into the sky, killing a utility worker, injuring six people, and forcing dozens from their homes.
Gas companies already are required to check pipeline integrity in highly populated areas and make repairs where necessary, but LaHood has asked executives at major pipeline companies to make it a priority.
His department plans regulations to strengthen reporting and inspection requirements and make information about pipelines and the safety records of operators easily accessible to the public.
In addition, the department seeks legislation to enhance oversight of pipeline safety - including an increase in civil penalties for violations from a maximum of $100,000 per day to $250,000 per day and from $1 million to $2.5 million for a series of violations - and has asked for funding for 40 more inspectors.
Don Santa, the president and chief executive of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, said his group's members were committed to pipeline safety and looking forward to working with federal officials.
Some pipelines in Allentown are more than 120 years old.