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PHMSA’s New Rules Aim to Overhaul Pipeline Safety

On October 1, 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”) published three final rules relating to the transportation of hazardous liquids and gas along regulated sectors of the nation’s infrastructure.  As published, the final rules, and their overall impacts, include the following:

I.  Pipeline Safety: Enhanced Emergency Order Procedures

This rule amends an October 14, 2016 interim final rule concerning PHMSA’s authority to institute an emergency order in addressing imminent safety concerns and unsafe practices.  As amended, the final rule provides: (i) the manner in which PHMSA can institute an emergency order; (ii) the duration and scope of such an emergency order; and (iii) a mechanism for the aggrieved pipeline owner and/or operator to seek judicial review of an emergency order.

This final rule has an effective date of December 2, 2019.

II.  Pipeline Safety: Safety of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

This rule dramatically broadens a pipeline owner/operator’s reporting and inspection requirements for hazardous liquid pipelines.  The final rule includes: (i) extending an operator’s reporting requirements to liquid gravity and rural gathering lines; (ii) requiring the inspection of pipelines affected by extreme weather and natural disasters; (iii) requiring integrity assessments at least once every 10 years of onshore hazardous liquid pipeline segments outside of high-consequence areas; (iv) requiring onshore hazardous liquid pipeline segments outside of high-consequence areas to be capable of accommodating in-line inspection tools; (v) extending the required use of leak detection systems beyond high consequence areas to include all regulated, non-gathering hazardous liquid pipelines; and (vi) subject to limited exceptions, requiring all pipelines in or affecting high-consequence areas be capable of accommodating in-line inspection tools within 20 years.

This final rule has an effective date of July 1, 2020.

III.  Pipeline Safety: Safety of Gas Transmission Pipelines: [Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure] Reconfirmation, Expansion of Assessment Requirements, and Other Related Amendments

This final rule concerns increased pipeline owner/operator requirements for gas transmission pipelines and is effectively the regulatory counterpart to PHMSA’s overhaul of hazardous liquid pipelines.  The final rule includes: (i) increased integrity management requirements; (ii) operator reconfirmation of maximum allowable operating pressure of previously untested natural gas transmission pipelines and other pipelines, as applicable; (iii) assessment of pipelines in populated areas that are not designated high-consequence areas; (iv) reporting exceedances of maximum allowable operating pressure; (v) requiring operators to consider the risk for seismicity in integrity management; (vi) increased safety features for in-line inspection launchers and receivers; and (vii) increased recordkeeping provisions.

This final rule has an effective date of July 1, 2020.

© Steptoe & Johnson PLLC. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume IX, Number 277


About this Author

Kurt Kreiger, Energy Attorney, Steptoe Johnson Law Firm

Kurt Krieger focuses his practice in the areas of utility regulation and energy law. He has experience representing interstate natural gas pipeline companies, midstream companies, and gas and electric utilities before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and state and commonwealth public service (or utility) commissions.  His experience includes counseling gas and electric companies on economic, safety and facility siting regulation, and counseling and drafting commercial agreements pertaining to energy-related transactions.


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Ryan Dunne Ewing Medical Cannabis Attorney Steptoe Johnson Law Firm

Ryan Dunne Ewing represents corporate medical cannabis growers, processors, and dispensaries within West Virginia. Ryan ensures prospective medical cannabis organizations comply with the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act and facilitates proper capital handling procedures under the Patriot and Bank Secrecy Acts.

Ryan’s practice also focuses on state and federal infrastructure development.  He regularly counsels both public and private utilities before the Public Service Commission of West Virginia, and he has experience with the funding and financing of infrastructure expansion projects.  Ryan has also represented clients before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concerning interstate and intrastate natural gas transmission pipelines.

Ryan has a wide range of experience on the regulation and expansion of infrastructure on both a state and federal level, including: applications for a certificate of public convenience and necessity, base rate cases, pressure commitment obligations, firm capacity requirements, underground natural gas storage facilities, expedited recovery of infrastructure costs through rate base, pipeline replacement expansion programs, municipal appeal rate cases, earnings tests, depreciation rate cases, affiliated transaction cases, purchased gas adjustment proceedings, purchases and sales of public utilities, consolidation proceedings, and defense of customer complaints.