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What's Coming Down the Pipe: Important Dates and Developments for Pipeline Owners and Operators to Monitor

Pipeline owners and operators will continue to experience an active regulatory environment according to two upcoming meetings and a priority setting speech by PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman.

On Dec. 11-13, 2012, the Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee and the Liquid Pipeline Advisory Committee will be meeting to discuss the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of two potential regulations that are being considered by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Each of these 15-member committees consist of representatives from the public, the regulated industry, and state and federal government officials.

The regulations that will be considered at these meetings in Alexandria, Va., include: 1) the April 2012 proposed rules allowing federal regulations regarding state excavation damage prevention programs to be federally enforced in states with inadequate programs; and 2) a proposed revision to the administrative pipeline enforcement procedures codified at 49 C.F.R. § 190. For more information about the meetings, please visit: http://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/meetings/MtgHome.mtg?mtg=82

On Jan. 7-8, 2013, the Office of Pipeline Safety Data public meeting will be held on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the meeting is to “provide an open forum for exchanging information about how pipeline data is used by stakeholders and how performance measures could be improved.” 77 Fed Reg. 61826. PHMSA is interested in hearing from the regulated community about what data collection procedures are useful and how the data collection procedures can be improved. For more information about this meeting, please visit: http://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/meetings/MtgHome.mtg?mtg=81

PHMSA’s Goals for 2013

On Nov. 8, 2012, the PHMSA’s Administrator identified some priorities for the PHMSA moving into the new year. The Agency’s three priorities for pipeline safety are: 1) anticipating and averting high-consequence events; 2) building and broadcasting to improve the public’s understanding of safety efforts and the risks; and 3) cataloging and curtailing the highest risks. The enforcement and inspection staff at the PHMSA at the end of FY 2012 has been increased to the limits of the PHMSA’s authority and the President’s budget request for the PHMSA, issued in February 2012 for FY 2013, was for $276 Million—which is a $75 Million PHMSA funding increase above FY 2012 levels.

PHMSA Administrator Quarterman projected that a draft hazardous liquid notice of proposed rulemaking would be released soon, along with the results of studies on leak detection, valves, and integrity management programs. In looking to 2013, implementation of the integrity management regulations (referred to by the PHMSA as the IMP 2.0 program) will be an important priority along with better coordination between the PHMSA and other entities such as the EPA and Coast Guard.

Finally the Pipeline Safety Action Plan will continue to be a focus for the Agency in 2013 along with funding for research and development to address pipeline integrity challenges. For the full November 2012 remarks by PHMSA Administrator Quarterman please see:
www.phmsa.dot.gov/staticfiles/PHMSA/DownloadableFiles/Speeches/AOPL%20API%20Remarks%2011%201%2012%20(Final)%20.pdf.

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Owners, operators, developers and users of pipelines turn to the multi-disciplinary Barnes & Thornburg LLP Pipeline Practice for skilled legal representation in this highly regulated industry. Barnes & Thornburg attorneys have in-depth experience advising major pipeline operators on compliance with federal and state regulatory programs across the United States and do so with a practical, business-oriented approach. We are also called upon to represent pipeline operators during leak incidents and resultant governmental investigations and enforcement actions. Our Pipeline Practice is...

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