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Pipeline Safety Update - Issue No. 145

DOT Invites Public Input on Agency Guidance Recommended for Repeal or Revision

On February 5th, the Department of Transportation (DOT) published a Notice inviting the public to file comments identifying guidance documents issued by DOT modal agencies, including the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), that should be repealed or revised.  DOT is interested in identifying guidance documents that (1) are no longer necessary; (2) spur cost-inducing actions by regulated entities; (3) are inconsistent or unclear; (4) may not be conducive to uniform or consistent enforcement; or (5) need to be updated.  This notice is a continuation of an October 2017 notice requesting input on regulations and other agency actions that should be suspended, repealed, replaced or modified because they impose unnecessary burdens on the use of domestically-produced energy resources. 

PHMSA issues various types of guidance, including advisory bulletins, frequently asked questions (FAQs), letters of interpretation, and inspection protocols.  Comments are due April 8. 

PHMSA Suspends Enforcement of Plastic Pipe Rule

We understand that PHMSA has suspended enforcement of the final rule amending the pipeline safety regulations applicable to the use of plastic pipe in the transportation of gas until PHMSA acts on a petition for reconsideration of the final rule filed by the American Gas Association (AGA) on December 20, 2018.  The petition raised concerns about the ability of operators to implement the rule by the January 22, 2019 effective date.  PHMSA also recommended that state regulators exercise their discretion to suspend enforcement.  PHMSA did not appear to publically post the suspension of enforcement, but the action has been reported by other sources. 

The NTSB’s 2019-2020 Ten Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements Addresses Pipelines

On February 11th, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued its 2019-2020 “Ten Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements,” including the safe transportation of hazardous materials.  The NTSB stated that aging pipeline infrastructure poses increased risk of pipeline ruptures and urged the pipeline industry to conduct adequate risk assessments.  The NTSB also provided the status of numerous safety recommendations that have been issued to PHMSA, operators and others.  The NTSB also urged the railroad industry to meet existing federal deadlines for replacing or retrofitting DOT-117/DOT-117R rail tank cars. 

PHMSA Rulemakings Update.  The tables below summarize the status of the PHMSA’s pending pipeline safety rulemaking initiatives as reflected in the DOT’s November Significant Rulemaking Report, the Office of Management & Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Fall 2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, and PHMSA’s Chart summarizing actions required by the 2016 Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act.  OIRA’s Unified Regulatory Agenda appears in two principal parts, Current Agenda Agency Regulatory Entries for Active Actions and Current Long Term Actions

Many of the estimated publication dates have passed.  DOT has not released an updated Significant Rulemaking Report since November 2018. 

Pending Final Rules


DOT Estimated Publication

OIRA Estimated Publication

PHMSA's 2016 PIPES Act Chart

Enhanced Emergency Order Procedures   December 7, 2018 October 2018 December 24, 2018
Plastic Pipe Rule Issued November 20, 2018
Safety of Gas Transmission Pipelines, MAOP Reconfirmation, Expansion of Assessment Requirements and Other Related Amendments  April 4, 2019 March 2019 March 14, 2019
Safety of Gas Transmission Pipelines, Repair Criteria, Integrity Management Improvements, Cathodic Protection, Management of Change, and Other Related Amendments  December 20, 2019 December 2019 Not Listed
Safety of Gas Gathering Pipelines  December 20, 2019 December 2019 Not Listed
Safety of Onshore Hazardous Liquid Pipelines March 15, 2019 December 2018 January 7, 2019
Underground Natural Gas Storage Facilities  January 21, 2019 December 2018 January 21, 2019

Pending Notices of Proposed Rulemakings 


DOT Estimated Publication

OIRA Estimated Publication 

PHMSA's 2016 PIPES Act Chart

Class Location Requirements Not Provided September 2019  Not Listed 
Gas Pipeline Regulatory Reform May 10, 2019 May 2019 Not Listed
Liquid Pipeline Regulatory Reform  Not Listed February 2019 Not Listed
Periodic Standards Update  Not Listed  April 2020 Not Listed
Repair Criteria for Hazardous Liquid Pipelines  Not Listed  Next Action Undetermined   Not Listed
Valve Installation and Minimum Rupture Detection Standards March 29, 2019 January 2019 January 14, 2019

Pending Advanced Notices of Proposed Rulemakings


DOT Estimated Publication 

OIRA Estimated Publication 

Coastal Ecological Unusually Sensitive Areas Not Listed April 2020


PHMSA seeks comments on several expiring information collections.  On February 5, PHMSA issued a Notice and Request for Comments on several information collections that PHMSA intends to request that OMB extend without modification.  The information collections expire April 30 and relate to gas transmission pipeline integrity management, control room management, gas distribution integrity management and response plans for onshore oil pipelines.  Comments must be submitted to PHMSA by April 12. 


Natural Gas Council issues report on pipeline cybersecurity.  The Oil and Natural Gas Sector Coordinating Council of the Natural Gas Council (NGC) issued a report entitled “Cybersecurity in the Natural Gas & Oil Industry.”  The report describes how owners and operators pipelines communicate and collaborate with the U.S. intelligence community, other governmental organizations, and each other to bolster cybersecurity of the nation’s oil and gas pipeline infrastructure.  Given increased sophistication and adaptiveness of cyber adversaries, the report urges that industry be allowed continued flexibility and agility to respond effectively and that government and industry continue their partnership in sharing cyber threat intelligence and strengthening cyber defenses. 

To download a full text PDF, which includes Dates of Interest, upcoming PHMSA State Seminars, and State Specific Association Meetings, please click here.

© 2020 Van Ness Feldman LLPNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 50


About this Author

Susan A. Olenchuk, Van Ness Feldman Law Firm, Washington DC, Energy and Litigation Law Attorney

Susan Olenchuk represents clients on regulatory, safety, enforcement, and policy issues under the Pipeline Safety Laws, as well as under the Natural Gas Act (NGA), and the Natural Gas Policy Act (NGPA). She practices before the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and federal courts. 

Susan’s PHMSA practice covers compliance and strategic counseling, enforcement, litigation, audit preparation, and policy guidance.  She represents operators of gas and hazardous liquid...

Bryn Karaus, Van Ness Feldman Law Firm, Pipeline Safety Attorney

As a member of the firm's pipeline safety practice, Bryn focuses on the regulation of pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities and the transportation of hazardous materials, and helps operators develop, implement, and defend their safety programs. Her practice covers compliance and strategic counseling, enforcement, litigation, audit preparation, and policy.

Prior to joining Van Ness Feldman, Bryn was a Senior Attorney in the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), where she handled matters related to the federal safety standards for oil and gas pipelines and LNG facilities. Bryn represented the agency in pipeline safety enforcement cases, collaborating with engineers to develop and enforce notices of probable violation, corrective action orders, and safety orders. She worked with PHMSA inspectors and with other federal and state agencies on accident and incident investigations. She also handled the legal review of PHMSA’s LNG portfolio during the projects’ FERC application process.

Marco Bracamonte, Van Ness Feldman Law Firm, Washington DC, Paralegal

With over 15 years of experience, Marco Bracamonte supports the firm’s attorneys and clients with natural gas regulatory and transactional matters before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He also assists with special litigation contract issues.  In addition to researching and reporting on various proceedings before the Commission, Marco is experienced in retrieving criminal records and making filings at the D.C. Superior Court.

Marco has completed courses of cite checking and legal research conducted by the National Capital Area...