#Pipeline Safety Act Reauthorization Process Begins

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.

Major Changes Proposed for Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Integrity Management

October 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has proposed expansion of the current Integrity Management rules to include previously unregulated pipelines.  As forecasted here, gathering lines are among the expanded reach.

PHMSA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is one of PHMSA’s most significant rulemakings to date, and if finalized, will result in a huge resource burden to the industry; unwelcome news during this challenging economic environment for the industry.

Some of the more significant new proposed requirements would change 49 CFR 195 to include the following:

  • Extending certain Integrity Management assessment and repair requirements to all pipelines, rather than those in high consequence areas (HCAs). PHMSA proposes to require pipeline segments not currently subject to the Integrity Management  regulations to be assessed by in-line inspections (ILI) at least once every 10 years, regardless of the proximity to high consequence areas (HCAs).
  • Limiting assessment methods other than ILI on non-HCA pipelines with notice including a technical demonstration that the pipeline is not capable of accommodating an ILI tool.
  • Changing the applicability of pipeline repair criteria to expand the list of conditions that require immediate remediation and to consolidate the timeframes for remediating all other conditions, and to apply these repair criteria to pipelines that are not subject to Integrity Management requirements, with an adjusted schedule for performing non-immediate repairs.
  • Modifying current Integrity Management repair criteria to encompass new conditions to be treated as “immediate repair conditions,” including bottom-side dents with stress risers; a calculation of remaining strength that shows a predicted burst pressure less than 1.1 times maximum operating pressure; any indication of significant stress corrosion cracking; and any indication of selective seam weld corrosion.
  • Eliminating current 60-day and 180-day repair categories, and would establish a new, consolidated 270-day repair category for ‘non-immediate’ repairs.
  • PHMSA proposes to specify that the immediate repair criteria in Part 195.452(h) are applicable to non-Integrity Management repairs and to establish an 18-month repair category.
  • Amending Part 195 to include a general requirement for performing all other repairs within a reasonable time.
  • Requiring any pipeline that could affect a HCA to be upgraded in order to accommodate ILI tools within 20 years, unless the basic construction of the pipeline would not accommodate the passage of such devices. Under current regulations, new pipelines and each line section of a pipeline where the line pipe, valve, fitting, or other line component is replaced must be designed and constructed to accommodate the passage of ILI devices, with certain exceptions.
  • Expanding the use of leak detection systems. PHMSA proposes to require all new hazardous liquid pipelines (not just those that could impact a HCA) to be designed to include leak detection systems and to evaluate the kind of system required to adequately protect the public, property and the environment.
  • Requiring Operators of all new liquid pipelines to evaluate and modify, as necessary, the capability of their leak detection systems to protect the public, property, and the environment.
  • Extending reporting requirements to certain unregulated lines, including all liquid gathering lines to require operators of all liquid gravity and gathering lines to submit annual, safety-related condition, and incident reports.
  • Requiring operators to inspect pipeline facilities potentially affected by an extreme weather event such as a hurricane or flood, an earthquake, a natural disaster, or other similar event within 72 hours after the cessation of the event, to ensure that no conditions exist that could adversely affect the pipeline and take appropriate remedial actions, which may include pressure reductions or shutdown in certain cases;
  • Requiring that operators of a new pipeline to develop a written Integrity Management program before the pipeline begins operation rather than one year after commissioning as current regulations require;
  • Specifying certain pipeline attributes that must be included in the information analysis required under the Integrity Management rule and requiring that operators identify any spatial relationship among anomalous information;
  • Requiring that operators verify the identification of segments subject to Integrity Management requirements annually; and
  • Clarifying that IM requirements apply to components of pipeline systems beyond line pipe, such as pump stations and breakout tanks.

Comments are due by January 8, 2016, and industry push-back is expected.

PHMSA Issues Pipeline Damage Prevention Final Rule

July 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

Excavation damage by third-parties has resulted in 757 injuries and $545 million in property damage from 1,815 pipeline incidents between 1988 and 2014   As the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has concluded that “[e]xcavation damage poses by far the single greatest threat to distribution system safety, reliability, and integrity.”  Often the responsible parties have faced little or no enforcement, because damage prevention has been handled by the states and not the federal government.  Some states have chosen to allow numerous exemptions to the damage prevention laws; in some cases protecting the most frequent parties causing the damage to pipelines.  State practices have been inconsistent, with many states lacking the resources for robust enforcement of their damage prevention statutes.

This long-awaited final rule may begin to resolve this problem. Although the process is expected to take some time to roll out, PHMSA’s evaluation of state programs should lead to increased enforcement against excavators who fail to use the one-call system and penalize states with cuts to grant funding for failure to adequately protect underground facilities through comprehensive damage prevention programs. The PIPES Act of 2006 directed PHMSA to develop criteria to evaluate the adequacy of state damage prevention programs and authorized PHMSA to civil enforcement action against excavators who violate safety requirements.

The final rule, announced July 15, amends the Federal pipeline safety regulations to establish the following:

  • The criteria and procedures PHMSA will use to determine the adequacy of State pipeline excavation damage prevention law enforcement programs;
  • The administrative process for States to contest notices of inadequacy from PHMSA should they elect to do so;
  • The Federal requirements PHMSA will enforce against excavators for violations in States with inadequate excavation damage prevention law enforcement programs; and
  • The adjudication process for administrative enforcement proceedings against excavators where Federal authority is exercised.

The criteria PHMSA will use to evaluate the adequacy of State damage prevention law enforcement programs, listed in § 198.55 are:

1) Does the State have the authority to enforce its State excavation damage prevention law using civil penalties and other appropriate sanctions for violations?

2)  Has the State designated a State agency or other body as the authority responsible for enforcement of the State excavation damage prevention law?

3)  Is the State assessing civil penalties and other appropriate sanctions for violations at levels sufficient to deter noncompliance and is the State making publicly available information that demonstrates the effectiveness of the State’s enforcement program?

4)  Does the enforcement authority (if one exists) have a reliable mechanism (e.g., mandatory reporting, complaint-driven reporting) for learning about excavation damage to underground facilities?

5)  Does the State employ excavation damage investigation practices that are adequate to determine the responsible party or parties when excavation damage to underground facilities occurs?

6)  At a minimum, do the State’s excavation damage prevention requirements include the following:

A.    Excavators may not engage in excavation activity without first using an available one-call notification system to establish the location of underground facilities in the excavation area.

B.    Excavators may not engage in excavation activity in disregard of the marked location of a pipeline facility as established by a pipeline operator

C    An excavator who causes damage to a pipeline facility

  1. Must report the damage to the operator of the facility at the earliest
  2. practical moment following discovery of the damage; and
  3. If the damage results in the escape of any PHMSA regulated natural and other gas or hazardous liquid, must promptly report to other appropriate authorities by calling the 911 emergency telephone number or another emergency telephone number.

7)  Does the State limit exemptions for excavators from its excavation damage prevention law? A State must provide to PHMSA a written justification for any exemptions for excavators from State damage prevention requirements. PHMSA will make the written justifications available to the public.

PHMSA’s evaluation will involve all of the criteria, and the final determination will be based on the totality of the review. PHMSA may declare a State enforcement program inadequate if the State’s program does not satisfy a combination of the criteria as described above. PHMSA will notify in writing the Governor’s office or other appropriate State authority of a State deemed to have an inadequate enforcement program.  States that PHMSA deems to have inadequate enforcement programs may be subject to reductions in pipeline safety grant funding. PHMSA will use the existing process for calculating base grants but is considering a policy that would incorporate and/or substitute the evaluation criteria in § 198.55 for the criteria that are currently used for evaluating State damage prevention programs.

PHMSA will generally to take actions on more serious cases where state enforcement is lacking.  Hopefully, the federal evaluation will result in increased enforcement by states, including elimination of exemptions to the one-call regulations.

READ MORE of the rulemaking proposal transmitted by PHMSA to the Federal Register is on the agency’s website.

New Regulations Coming for Gathering Lines

June 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

Every time I speak at industry conferences, I am asked “what’s on the horizon for new regulation?” For the last five years, I’ve been predicting more rigorous regulation of gathering lines.

Anyone paying attention to the heightened scrutiny and increased regulation of pipelines recognizes the influence of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).  Although NTSB has no jurisdiction to regulate pipelines, the safety concerns raised by NTSB are always eventually acted on in subsequent rulemaking by PHMSA.  Former NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman gave testimony in  2010 before the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Hearing on The Safety of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines–Regulated versus Unregulated Pipelines detailed NTSB’s continuing concerns about the regulation of low-stress pipeline systems including gathering lines.  Ms. Hersman’s testimony included details from two fatal incidents occurring on two unregulated pipelines in Texas. Both incidents resulted from excavation damage when third parties hit unmarked pipelines.

PHMSA responded with two Advanced Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRMs); Pipeline Safety: Safety of On-Shore Hazardous Liquid Pipelines,” published in the Federal Register in October of 2010 and “Pipeline Safety: Safety of Gas Transmission Pipelines” published in August of 2011 on safety issues and data collection needs.

Congress also responded to NTSB’s concerns by requiring PHMSA to conduct a review of existing state and federal regulations for gas and hazardous liquid gathering lines.  This was one of many studies required under The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011.  PHMSA was required to submit a report of the review and recommendations to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate.

PHMSA released its study to Congress on May 8, 2015. It should come as no surprise that based on the study, PHMSA reports considering the need to propose new regulations of natural gas and hazardous liquid gathering lines and consider eliminating existing exemptions from Federal regulations using risk-based assessment and prioritization. Stay tuned.

PHMSA Issues FINAL RULE, Amends Pipeline Safety Regulations

March 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

On March 11, 2015, The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a Final Rule that amends several Part 195 and 192 regulations. This final rule is the culmination of rulemaking that began with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in 2011. The regulatory provisions impacted include but are not limited to post-construction inspections, welding, gas component pressure testing requirements, and calculating pressure reductions for immediate repairs on liquid pipelines.  In total 16 rules were proposed in 2011. The notice and comment period included significant comments from stakeholders, including industry, resulting in 7 of the proposed rules being modified, and 3 withdrawn for further consideration and study. 6 of the proposed rules were codified as written.

The most controversial of the proposed rules involved post-construction compliance inspections. PHMSA had originally proposed that third party inspectors, independent from the construction contractors, were required to perform post-construction inspection. The codified version clarifies that personnel involved in different construction project tasks may also perform inspections of other construction tasks, so long as they do not inspect the specific tasks they performed during construction.

The complete Final Rule was published in the Federal Register, and can be viewed online.

Hearing on the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011

May 25, 2014 § Leave a comment


The Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials held a hearing on May 20, 2014 to review the 2011 Act.  The hearing was opened with remarks by Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA), who stressed the importance of a risk-based approach to pipeline safety driven by private investment.  We believe in a risk-based, data-driven approach to pipeline safety that focuses private investment in pipeline safety on those areas of higher risk.  As PHMSA develops rules to implement the mandates contained in the 2011 act, it is critically important that we must provide regulatory certainly necessary for pipeline owners and operators to plan infrastructure investments, and do so with input from the safety community and industry.” 

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