What’s Next For PHMSA Gas Gathering Rule with Keith Coyle

Attorney Keith Coyle provides an update on the latest progress in the PHMSA rulemaking process for the Gas Gathering Rule.

In this episode, you will learn about the importance of how gathering lines are defined, the impact of the recently-updated API RP 80 that provides additional guidance on how to define gathering lines, what type of gathering lines need to comply with the PHMSA safety requirements in 49 CFR 192, how the transition to a new administration will impact the timing of the rulemaking being finalized, and more topics. To listen to this podcast, click here.

Pipeline Policy — Last 4 Years, Next 4 Years with Keith Coyle

On a recent episode of Pipeliners Podcast, attorney Keith Coyle discusses insights on PHMSA rulemaking and how pipeline policy was affected by the previous four years, and how it might be affected in the next four years. To listen to this podcast, click here.

Pipeline Safety Alert – PHMSA Issues Final Rule for Underground Natural Gas Storage Facilities

On February 12, 2020, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA or Agency) released a final rule establishing new safety standards and reporting requirements for underground natural gas storage (UNGS) facilities (the Final Rule).  The Final Rule modifies regulations that PHMSA previously established in an interim final rule (IFR) to address a congressional mandate in the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016 (PIPES Act).

The Final Rule follows the approach taken in the IFR by incorporating the provisions in two industry safety standards for UNGS facilities by reference but eliminates the requirement to treat the permissive elements of those standards as mandatory.  The Final Rule also makes other changes to the IFR, many of which respond to issues raised in public comments, a petition for reconsideration filed by several industry trade organizations, and a petition for judicial review filed by the State of Texas in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.  Additional information about the Final Rule, which takes effect on March 13, 2020, is provided below.

Please read more about this Final Rule in this Alert.

Pipeline Safety Alert – PHMSA Publishes Long-Awaited Mega-Rule for Gas Transmission Lines

On October 1, 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA or the Agency) published a final rule in the Federal Register amending the federal safety standards for gas pipeline facilities at 49 C.F.R. Part 192 (Rule). The Rule primarily addresses concerns identified in congressional mandates and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations for gas transmission lines.  The most significant provisions include new requirements for verifying pipeline materials, reconfirming maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP), and performing periodic assessments of pipeline segments located outside of high consequence areas (HCAs), including in newly-defined moderate consequence areas (MCAs).  Other changes include amendments to the integrity management (IM) requirements, new requirements for reporting MAOP exceedances and the safety of inline inspection launcher and receivers, as well as related recordkeeping requirements.

This alert is the first in a four-part Babst Calland series on the Rule.  This first alert discusses the new MAOP reconfirmation and material verification requirements.  The next alert will cover MCAs and new assessment requirements for pipelines located outside of HCAs.  The third client alert will review the new recordkeeping requirements.  Finally, Babst Calland will survey the remaining Rule topics.

Please read more about this Final Rule in this Alert.

Pipeline Safety Alert – PHMSA Publishes Long-Awaited Final Rule for Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

On October 1, 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a final rule in the Federal Register amending the federal safety standards for hazardous liquids pipelines at 49 C.F.R. Part 195 (84 Fed. Reg. 52260) (Rule). The publication of the Rule ends a nearly decade-long rulemaking process that began in the wake of a significant pipeline accident in Marshall, Michigan. A prior version of the Rule, released in the closing days of the Obama administration, was returned to PHMSA for further review pursuant to a White House memorandum issued at the start of the Trump administration. This version of the Rule reflects changes that PHMSA made after receiving input from the current administration, the most significant of which is the removal of new requirements for performing pipeline repairs. The effective date of the Rule is July 1, 2020.  Please read more about this Final Rule in this Alert.

Pipeline Safety Alert – PHMSA Releases Enhanced Emergency Order Procedures

On October 1, 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA or the Agency) published a Final Rule in the Federal Register updating its procedural requirements for issuing emergency orders (EO).  In 2016, PHMSA issued temporary regulations for issuing emergency orders in an interim final rule (IFR).  Unlike the process that ordinarily applies to PHMSA rulemakings under the Pipeline Safety and Administrative Procedure Acts, the Agency issued the temporary EO requirements without providing the public with prior notice or the opportunity to submit comments.  The final rule takes effect on December 2, 2019, and includes changes that the Agency deemed necessary based on comments submitted after the IFR.  Please read more about this Final Rule in this Alert.

Alert: DOT Sends Pipeline Safety Bill to Congress

On June 3, 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) sent a legislative proposal to Congress for reauthorization of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) pipeline safety program.  If enacted and signed into law, the legislation would reauthorize PHMSA’s pipeline safety program for an additional four years, or through 2023.

As in previous reauthorizations, the bill includes provisions that respond to recent events—in this case, the September 13, 2018 natural gas distribution incident in Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts.  Consistent with the Trump administration’s broader policy agenda, the bill also includes provisions to promote innovation by supporting new technologies and enhancing pipeline safety and reliability.

The legislation addresses other areas of concern to the pipeline industry, such as requiring more timely review of technical standards and imposing additional criminal sanctions for pipeline vandalism.  Finally, the bill includes rulemaking mandates that focus on items of importance to PHMSA—namely, expanding the operator qualification (OQ) program to pipeline construction and establishing regulations for inactive pipelines.

Please read more about this decision in this Alert.

New PHMSA administrator confronts outstanding pipeline safety rulemaking proceedings

Howard R. Elliott was officially sworn in on October 30 as the new administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Administrator Elliott, who spent four decades in the freight rail industry and received a lifetime achievement award from the Association of American Railroads for hazardous materials transportation safety, is well positioned to lead the federal agency that administers the nation’s hazardous materials transportation safety program. However, his tenure is likely to be defined, at least in the near term, by how he handles two significant pipeline safety rulemaking proceedings that PHMSA initiated during the previous administration. Click here to read this article from the November issue of The PIOGA Press.

OMB Declines to Approve PHMSA Proposal to Modify the National Pipeline Mapping System

On March 23, 2017, OMB concluded its review of PHMSA’s proposed expansion of the data collected under the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS).  OMB elected to reapprove the current information collection supporting NPMS and not the revisions proposed by PHMSA.  

In July 2014, PHMSA first issued a identifying 32 attributes the agency intended to collect from transmission operators in NPMS.  PHMSA also included a positional accuracy requirement proposing that operators submit the centerline location of each transmission pipeline with an accuracy level of +/- five feet.  In August 2015, PHMSA released a revised information collection proposal and scheduled a public workshop.  In June 2016, PHMSA released a <third revision reducing the number of requested attributes and settling on a positional accuracy requirement of +/- 50 feet for natural gas transmission operators in populated areas (Class 2, 3, 4, an HCA, identified site, or where there is one or more buildings intended for human occupancy) and +/- 100 feet for all other gas pipeline segments.  Operators of hazardous liquid pipelines would need to comply with the +/- 50 feet requirement for all pipelines.  Since PHMSA is proposing to make these changes through an information collection request (ICR), the agency sent the revised proposal to OMB for approval on June 22, 2016.  On March 23, 2017, OMB issued its decision to reapprove the previous ICR and not the revisions requested by PHMSA.  Operators will need to continue to comply with the current NPMS requirements.    

Please contact Brianne Kurdock at (202) 853-3462 or bkurdock@babstcalland.com, James Curry at (202) 853-3461 or jcurry@babstcalland.com, or Keith Coyle at (202) 853-3460 or kcoyle@babstcalland.com for more information.

Pipelines are safe. They already are the safest way to transport energy – and getting safer.

In a recent op-ed published in the Post-Gazette, “Gas Pipelines Represent Prosperity” (Sept. 5 Perspectives), David Spigelmyer and James Kunz of the Marcellus Shale Coalition described the many benefits Read more ›

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