June 24, 2016 § Leave a comment
The Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016, or PIPES Act, reauthorizes the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) oil and gas pipeline programs through 2019. Like every version, every four years, the reauthorization includes new mandates for the agency.
The 2016 reauthorization requires that PHMSA develop national regulations for the construction and operation of underground natural gas storage facilities. That provision is in response to the Aliso Canyon gas leak in southern California. For those interested in a preview of what is to come for storage, PHMSA has an upcoming workshop on July 14, 2016 that is certain to give us a roadmap. See: PHMSA WORKSHOP DETAILS
November 19, 2015 § Leave a comment
It’s reauthorization time again. Every 4 years, chapter 49 of the code of federal regulations governing pipeline safety comes up for review. This includes authorization of appropriations to fund the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and reauthorization of agency’s mandate to promulgate and enforce pipeline safety regulations. The last version, currently in effect, is the the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011. (Note: Many regulations passed in that time frame included the phrase “job creation.” The regulations certainly did not foster job growth. Given the Obama administration’s stance against building more infrastructure, exploration, and exporting, there can be no claim of job creation in 2015…the only jobs expanding are government inspectors.)
The new bill, titled ‘‘Securing America’s Future Energy: Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act’’ or the ‘‘SAFE PIPES Act’’ was introduced Senators Deb Fischer (NE) and Cory Booker (NJ). As expected, the focus is on aging infrastructure, review (and expansion) of integrity management and security. In the area of environmental protection, the bill would amend the regulations to explicitly state that the Great Lakes are a USA ecological resource (as defined in section 195.6(b)) for purposes of determining whether a pipeline is in a high consequence area. The bill would also streamline hiring practices for PHMSA to fast track bringing on more inspectors. Read the full bill here.
March 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
Coined the Polluter-Pays enactment, Bill C-46 would amend the statutory liability regime for federally regulated pipelines in Canada. The bill imposes unlimited liability of pipeline operators if an unintended or uncontrolled release of oil, gas or any other commodity from a pipeline that they operate arising from their fault or negligence, and requires financial assurance for the life of assets including post abandonment. The bill:
- establishes the limit of strict liability (without proof of fault or negligence) at no less than one billion dollars for companies that operate pipelines that have the capacity to transport at least 250,000 barrels of oil per day and at an amount prescribed by regulation for companies that operate any other pipelines;
- requires that companies that operate pipelines maintain the financial resources necessary to pay the amount of the limit of liability that applies to them;
- authorizes the National Energy Board (NEB) to order any operator of a pipeline with an unintended or uncontrolled release of oil, gas or any other commodity occurs to reimburse any government institution the costs it incurred in taking any action or measure in relation to that release;
- requires that operators remain responsible for their abandoned pipelines;
- authorizes the NEB to order operators to maintain funds to pay for the abandonment of their pipelines or for their abandoned pipelines;
- allows the Governor in Council to authorize the NEB to take, in certain circumstances, any action or measure that the NEB considers necessary in relation to an unintended or uncontrolled release of oil, gas or any other commodity from a pipeline;
- allows the Governor in Council to establish, in certain circumstances, a pipeline claims tribunal whose purpose is to examine and adjudicate the claims for compensation for compensable damage caused by an unintended or uncontrolled release of oil, gas or any other commodity from a pipeline;
- authorizes, in certain circumstances, that funds may be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to pay the costs of taking the actions or measures that the NEB considers necessary in relation to an unintended or uncontrolled release of oil, gas or any other commodity from a pipeline, to pay the costs related to establishing a pipeline claims tribunal and to pay any amount of compensation that such a tribunal awards; and
- authorizes the NEB to recover those funds from the company that operates the pipeline from which the release occurred and from companies that operate pipelines that transport a commodity of the same class as the one that was released.
As of March 9, 2015, Bill C-46 was referred to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources. For more details, read the full bill text.