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U.S. Transportation Secretary Touts Energy Infrastructure Improvements During Stop in Pittsburgh

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Pittsburgh Friday, praising one of the largest pipeline modernization projects in the nation's history. Hundreds of thousands of pipes run under communities in the U.S., transporting natural gas, but many are very old and some are starting to crumble.

A year ago, Secretary LaHood called upon pipeline operators to take a hard look at their infrastructure and make needed improvements. He says companies such as NiSource, which includes Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, took that call and ran with it.

"They have stepped up. They are making a difference today. They didn't just listen to us, they didn't pay lip service, what they're doing today is replacing aging pipelines. That's what the industry is doing around America," said LaHood.

NiSource says that work is ongoing. Their Columbia Gas Transmission subsidiary is in the process of launching a program to upgrade its 12,000-mile interstate pipeline system, which serves markets in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions.

"In the process, billions of dollars will be invested and thousands of jobs will be created. $4 million of that work will be invested in the city of Pittsburgh to upgrade pipelines in the Brighton Heights and Overbrook neighborhoods," said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

The Department of Transportation will lead an effort to help expedite federal permitting for a 1,000 mile pipeline modernization project by NiSource. LaHood said it's important for Americans to have the energy they need, and have it delivered in a safe manner. The pipes are made out of steel, and LaHood added that he needn't tell anyone in this region how important the steel industry is.

"This is a win-win," said LaHood, "not only for Pittsburgh, but for America."