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PHMSA Issues New Advisory Bulletin Covering “Purged but Active” Pipelines

Today, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published an Advisory Bulletin entitled  “Clarification of Terms Relating to Pipeline Operational Status.”  Section 23 of the PIPES Act required PHMSA to issue an ADB within 90 days of enactment summarizing the procedures for changing the status of a pipeline facility from “active” to “abandoned”.  Historically, PHMSA has stated that it does not recognize “idle” status for pipelines (only active or abandoned).  PHMSA’s ADB introduces the concept of “purged but active” status, arguably a new category for operational status.  The ADB states that PHMSA is considering a future rulemaking requiring operators to notify the agency of “purged but active” pipelines, but that in the meantime “owners or operators planning to defer certain activities for purged pipelines should coordinate the deferral in advance with regulators.”  PHMSA’s guidance on integrity management currently allows deferral of certain inspection activities for out-of-service pipe.