In 2011, Congress passed a law — the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 — which mandated that GAO assess the levels and types of participation of minority-owned, woman-owned, and disadvantaged firms in the construction and operation of pipeline facilities in the United States.
The report defines the “pipeline industry” as firms involved in the construction of pipelines that transport materials such as oil, natural gas and hazardous materials, and under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In 2007, the most recent year for which data are available, there were 2,519 pipeline firms in the U.S. — 2,028 of which were “classifiable by gender, ethnicity, race and veteran status” and included in the study.
Of those 2,028 firms in the study, 298 were minority- or female-owned.
The federal statute established a goal that at least 10 percent of DOT-assisted contracts are expended on “socially and economically disadvantaged firms,” which include minority- and female-owned firms.
“About $246 million — or 8 percent — of federal contract obligations went to disadvantaged pipeline firms, which may be minority-owned or female-owned firms, from 2007 to 2011,” the GAO said, with the majority of these contracts for construction projects.
When granting federal contracts, the U.S. Department of Transportation “presumes that women and certain racial and ethnic groups are socially disadvantaged,” the GAO said, but does not give assistance to woman- or minority-owned firms on a “recurring basis.”
However, DOT does administer a program “aimed at helping disadvantaged firms participate in contract opportunities created by DOT financial assistance programs in some sectors of the economy, such as public transportation,” the GAO report noted.
The Transportation Department requires that program applicants prove their personal net worth is less than $1.32 million.”