Participating and Offering Comments on Pipeline Safety
Frequently, opportunities arise for citizens, local governments, and community groups or agencies to provide public comment and participate in proceedings related to pipeline safety. Often, voices from the pipeline industry are the only ones heard by the federal regulators when proposed changes to rules or information collections are proposed. If you care about these issues, it’s important to weigh in and make your voice heard.
You can see some of our own comments submitted over the years on our Regulatory Comments page.
If you want more information about how the rulemaking process works, please read our Guide to Pipeline Safety Rulemaking
From time to time, federal agencies have workshops on a variety of regulatory issues. These workshops are frequently webcast, and are also open to the public, in case you happen to be or live near where they are scheduled. Upcoming federal workshops and meetings are listed below with links for information on how to participate.
PHMSA workshop on Pipeline Public Awareness Program – July 13, 2016, Chicago, IL
PHMSA Workshop on Underground Natural Gas Storage Safety – July 14, Broomfield, CO
DOE has also announced a gas storage safety workshop as part of the work of the Interagency Task force commissioned following the Aliso Canyon well failure earlier this year: Workshop on Well Integrity for Natural Gas Storage in Depleted Reservoirs and Aquifers, July 23-13, 2016, Broomfield, CO
FEDERAL PIPELINE SAFETY PROGRAM REAUTHORIZATION
Updated June 22, 2016: President Obama has signed the 2016 PIPES act. We will post a copy of the Public Law as soon as we see that it’s published.
Every four years Congress reviews and then reauthorizes the national pipeline safety program. That began last year, and is set to finish up in 2016. The U.S. Senate Commerce and Science Committee held hearings and produced a reauthorization bill in late 2015. That bill with some amendments passed in the full Senate in early March and can be found here.
There are two committees in the U.S. House that have jurisdiction over pipeline safety. Both the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I), and the House Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C) held hearings on the reauthorization in late February and early March. A subcommittee of E&C held a mark up on a proposed bill in March which was passed on to the full committee, and that proposed bill can be found here. In early April the House T&I Committee released a draft bill, and then on April 20th the full committee passed the PIPES Act (HR 4937). On April 27th the full House E&C Committee reviewed and passed HR 5050.
Since late April negotiations have been ongoing trying to draft a consolidated bill that incorporates the best parts of all three bills and the current wishes of the Senate and both Committees of the House. The draft of that consolidated bill was released on June 6th and can be found here. That bill may be voted on by the Senate and House as early as June 8th.
We have put together a document that compares what is included in the three different bills, and now the Consolidated Bill, talks briefly about our concerns, and shows which version we think are the best for moving pipeline safety forward. This Bill Comparison document can be found here and it will be updated if there are any changes as the bill move forward.
If you click on the title heading below, it will take you to the www.regulations.gov announcement for the specific rule, where you can find a link to related items by going to the docket folder, as well as previously-submitted comments; you can also use the “Comment Now” link to submit your own comments.
Operator Qualifications, Incident Notification, Cost Recovery, and other pipeline safety changes – (Docket No. PHMSA–2013–0163)- PHMSA issued a final rule in this docket on January 23, 2017, reducing the allowable time before an incident must be reported, altering the operator qualification regulations and providing for cost recovery in some instances of PHMSA review of pipeline designs. The rule will go into effect in March 2017.
Information Collection (Docket PHMSA-2014-0092) – comments were due July 22, 2016. This is the most recent iteration of PHMSA’s changes to the requirements for operators to report certain information to PHMSA for use in the National Pipeline Mapping System. The most important change is the improved resolution of location information from ± 500 feet to ±50 feet – a vast improvement.
Safety of Gas Transmission and Gathering Pipelines (Docket PHMSA-2011-0023) – comments were due July 7, 2016 (extended from June 7, 2016)
This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposes to revise the Pipeline Safety Regulations applicable to the safety of onshore gas transmission and gathering pipelines. PHMSA proposes changes to the integrity management (IM) requirements and proposes changes to address issues related to non-IM requirements. This NPRM also proposes modifying the regulation of onshore gas gathering lines. We have now posted our final comments and the three documents we incorporated into them (Accufacts, MJ Bradley, and Kowalewski) Finally we have also posted below the slide show that PHMSA recently used to walk through the major areas the proposed rule covers:
- PST Final Comments on Proposed Rule
- A Review, Analysis and Comments on Engineering Critical Assessments as proposed in PHMSA’s Proposed Rule on Safety Of Gas Transmission and Gathering Pipelines, by Richard Kuprewicz, Accufacts, Inc.
- Pipeline Blowdown Emissions and Mitigation Options, by MJ Bradley and Associates
- Report to the Secretary: Pipeline Integrity Management, an Evaluation to Help Improve PHMSA’s Oversight, Rick Kowalewski
- PHMSA Slide show on proposed rule
- PST talking points on PHMSA proposed Safety of Gas Pipelines rule, June 2016
Information Collection (Docket PHMSA-2015-0179) – comments were due February 16, 2016
An information collection is different from a typical rulemaking in that PHMSA is not proposing to change any of the official regulations; they are proposing to collect information for the proper functioning of the agency (or renew or revise existing information collected). Comments can be submitted on whether the information does indeed have practical utility, and suggestions can be given on ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected. This Information Collection has to do with four different areas:
- Gas Transmission Integrity Management,
- Control Room Management,
- Gas Distribution Integrity Management, and
- Spill Response Plans.
PHMSA issued a final rule in this docket on January 13, 2017. The rule goes into effect 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.
See this link to view all documents and comments that are a part of this docket. PHMSA also compiled a summary of the comments by topic area that was made available to the Liquid Pipeline Advisory Committee.
Pipeline Safety Trust final comments on the proposed rule can be downloaded here.
FEDERAL SPECIAL PERMITS
These are permits requested by individual pipeline operators to waiver from particular pipeline safety regulations. PHMSA has latitude with these special permits to impose conditions (you can see existing special permits that have been granted by PHMSA in the past here). We list them here by the state or region they apply to. You really have to download the operator’s permit request and other documents that are posted on the docket to get an understanding of what is being requested, as they can vary widely. Many have to do with changes to population density near the pipelines, triggering the need for the operator to follow different rules and sometimes replace pipe, or ask for an alternative through this special permit process. The Trust commented on Dockets 0004, 0006, 0007 and 0008 and our comments can be viewed on those dockets.
Portion of Eastern U.S. (KY, LA, MS, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TN, TX, WV); Tennessee Gas Pipeline (comments were due 3/24/2016) – see docket PHMSA-2016-0004 (subject: class location requirements)
Portion of Southeast U.S. (AL, GA, LA, MS); Southern Natural Gas / Kinder Morgan (comments were due 3/24/2016) – see docket PHMSA-2016-0006 (subject: class location requirements)
Arizona, New Mexico, Texas; El Paso Natural Gas (comments were due 3/24/2016) – see docket PHMSA-2016-0007 (subject: class location requirements)
Colorado, Wyoming; Colorado Interstate Gas Company / Kinder Morgan (comments were due 3/24/2016) – see docket PHMSA-2016-0008 (subject: class location requirements)
Michigan; Nexus Gas Transmission / Spectra (comments were due 3/24/2016) – see docket PHMSA-2016-0009 (subject: odorization)
STATE DEPARTMENT EXTENDS DEADLINE ON MICHIGAN CROSS-BORDER LINES UNDER ST CLAIR RIVER
The Department of State has extended the comment deadline on its Notice of Re-Consideration Concerning the Scope of Authorizations in a Presidential Permit Issued to Plains LPG Services, L.P. in May 2014 for Existing Pipeline Facilities on the Border of the United States and Canada under the St. Clair River. You can comment directly on Regulations.gov using Docket DOS-2016-0004. The comment deadline has been extended 30 days from the original due date of February 25. The due date will be published on the Regulations.gov page when the extension has been published in the Federal Register. If you have concerns about these two 8 inch lines under the St. Clair River, get your comments prepared and filed. Comments now closed.
The Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board was created in September 2015 based on one of the recommendations in the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force Report. They are tasked with continuing to implement the report including making recommendations regarding pipeline safety, emergency and spill response, siting, and transparency to the Governor. Comments can be sent to the co-chairs listed on the Board’s website, or any of the 15 members.
The Department of Ecology is currently updating its rules related to oil spill prevention and contingency planning. See this website for detailed information and ways to comment. The comment deadline for the preliminary draft rule language has passed, but there will be draft revisions to the rule issued during 2016 with another open comment period. That information will be posted here. THe Trust’s comments on the preliminary language can be found here.
Washington also has a Citizens Committee on Pipeline Safety that exists to advise the state agencies and other appropriate federal and local government agencies and officials on matters relating to hazardous liquid and gas pipeline safety, routing, construction, operation, and maintenance. Contact and other information about that committee is on its website.
The North Dakota Industrial Commission is proposing new rules relating to gathering lines, saltwater handling facilities and other efforts to reduce spills in the state’s oil and gas fields. The rules will be published on its website by February 22, 2016, and comments will be taken before the rules are acted upon by the Commission. Commenting information will be on the same website.
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