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Pipeline Safety Update - Issue No. 152

Senate Committee approves bill to reauthorize pipeline safety programs and amend the Pipeline Safety Laws.  DOT increases maximum civil penalties under the Pipeline Safety Act.  Updated PHMSA Rulemakings Chart.  PHMSA seeks comment on renewed information collection.  Updates from Select States.

Senate Committee Approves Bill to Reauthorize Pipeline Safety Programs and Amend the Pipeline Safety Laws

On July 31, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved by voice vote S.2299, the Pipes Act of 2019.  The bill contains provisions addressing the evaluation and ranking of risks under distribution integrity management plans; the management of distribution system records and ensuring they are available to construction and engineering personnel; emergency response plans; management of change; review of construction plans by qualified personnel; and reducing the risk of line overpressurizations.  S.2299 also would require that, when establishing a civil penalty, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) consider whether the operator self-disclosed and corrected an alleged violation before PHMSA discovered it.

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) voted “no” on the bill because it does not contain language addressing the management of methane leaks.  In addition, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) expressed concern that the Committee did not consider amendments on whistleblower protections.  Both senators indicated their desire to address these amendments before the bill reaches the Senate floor later this fall. 

DOT Increases Maximum Civil Penalties Under the Pipeline Safety Act. 

On July 31, the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a final rule increasing the civil penalties that PHMSA may assess for violations of the Pipeline Safety Act.  Effective July 31, the maximum civil penalty for each pipeline safety violation increased from $213,268 to $218,647 per violation per day, and the maximum penalty for a related series of pipeline safety violations increased from $2,132,679 to $2,186,465.  The maximum penalty for liquefied natural gas pipeline safety violations increased from $77,910 to $79,875.  These increased penalties apply only to violations occurring after the rule’s July 31 effective date. 

Updated PHMSA Rulemakings Chart.  The chart below shows the status of PHMSA’s pending pipeline safety rulemakings as reflected in (1) DOT’s June Significant Rulemaking Report, (2) PHMSA’s status Chart of legislatively mandated actions, and (3) the Office of Management & Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Spring 2019 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.  The Unified Agenda appears in two principal parts, Current Agenda Agency Regulatory Entries for Active Actions and Current Long Term Actions

Pending Final Rules

Proceeding

DOT Estimated Publication

OIRA Estimated Publication

PHMSA’s Chart

Emergency Order Procedures

August 1, 2019

May 2019

July 26, 2019

Safety of Gas Transmission Pipelines, MAOP Reconfirmation, Expansion of Assessment Requirements and Other Related Amendments

August 30, 2019

July 2019

August 30, 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

June 26, 2020

December 2019

Not Listed

Safety of Onshore Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

June 28, 2019

December 2018

July 29, 2019

Underground Natural Gas Storage Facilities

September 30, 2019

July 2019

October 22, 2019

Pending Notices of Proposed Rulemakings

Proceeding

DOT Estimated Publication

OIRA Estimated Publication

PHMSA’s Chart

Amendments to LNG Facilities

September 2, 2019

October 2019

September 2, 2019

Class Location Requirements

November 15, 2019

November 2019

Not Listed

Gas Pipeline Regulatory Reform

September 30, 2019

August 2019

Not Listed

LNG by Rail

July 29, 2019

Not Listed

Not Listed

Liquid Pipeline Regulatory Reform

Not Listed

June 2019

Not Listed

Periodic Standards Update

Not Listed

April 2020

Not Listed

Repair Criteria for Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

June 26, 2020

Next Action Undetermined

Not Listed

Valve Installation and Minimum Rupture Detection Standards

September 27, 2019

August 2019

September 27, 2019

Pending Advance Notices of Proposed Rulemakings

Proceeding

DOT Estimated Publication

OIRA Estimated Publication

PHMSA’s Chart

Coastal Ecological Unusually Sensitive Areas

Not Listed

April 2020

April 13, 2020

Other PHMSA Updates 

PHMSA seeks comment on renewed information collection.  On July 30, PHMSA issued a notice that it intends to submit a renewed information collection to OMB covering the reporting and recordkeeping requirements associated with the requirement that gas pipeline operators notify customers of their right to request the installation of excess flow valves.  The existing information collection expires on March 31, 2020, and PHMSA intends to request renewal without change.  Comments are due September 30.

Updates from Select States

Pennsylvania:  Comments are due on August 28 regarding the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking public input on how to amend and enhance regulation governing the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of public utilities that transport petroleum products and other hazardous liquids in intrastate commerce. 

Texas:  Comments are due on August 12 regarding the Texas Railroad Commission’s (RRC) informal working drafts of possible amendments to its pipeline safety regulations pertaining to unregulated intrastate gas gathering and hazardous liquid gathering pipelines.  Potential regulatory changes include requiring unregulated onshore Class 1 natural gas gathering pipelines and unregulated rural hazardous liquid pipelines to comply with regulations pertaining to corrosion control for steel pipelines, damage prevention, public education programs, maximum allowable operating pressure (gas pipelines), maximum operating pressure (hazardous liquid pipelines), line markers and leakage surveys for gas gathering and right-of-way inspections for liquid pipelines. 

In addition, the working draft would require that Class 1 onshore natural gas gathering lines greater than 12.75 inches in diameter with MAOPs that produce a hoop stress of 20 percent or more of specified minimum yield strength (SMYS) comply with Part 192 of the federal pipeline safety regulations, except for integrity management and requirements for inline inspection.  Such pipelines also would be required to comply with requirements pertaining to incident and accident reporting, inspections, and enforcement.  The working draft also reflects revised definitions of incidents and accidents, shortening the deadline for reporting an incident or leak from 2 hours to 1 hour after discovery, and addresses record-keeping requirements for plastic pipelines.

© 2020 Van Ness Feldman LLPNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 220

TRENDING LEGAL ANALYSIS


About this Author

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

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...

202-298-1896
Bryn Karaus, Van Ness Feldman Law Firm, Pipeline Safety Attorney
Associate

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.

202-298-1821
Marco Bracamonte, Van Ness Feldman Law Firm, Washington DC, Paralegal
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...

202-298-1924