The Pipeline Safety Trust has a new Local Government Guide to Pipelines that can be downloaded from this link (Sept 2014; 3.4 MB). You are also welcome to request hard copies of the published Guide that we will send to you on request. This guide was made possible by a 2013 PHMSA Technical Assistance Grant to both create the new guide, and update our Landowners Guide to Pipelines. Thanks to the many representatives from local governments across the country, as well as assistance from state and federal regulators, who all helped make the guide as thorough and accurate as possible.
Generally speaking, the regulatory authority for the siting and safety of pipelines falls upon the federal government, and to a lesser extent state government. Yet local government has to respond to pipeline emergencies, and local government is where citizens often turn for answers to pipeline questions. One area where local government does play an important role in pipeline safety is through zoning and land use rule making. Transmission pipelines were once built mainly in rural areas, but as our cities and towns expand outward new businesses and housing developments are encroaching on pipeline right-of-ways. Often entities such as local school boards or hospitals have little or no knowledge of pipelines, so it is important that local communities think about the siting of such structures near pipelines. Below are some strategies that communities are starting to embrace, along with links of where to get more information.
The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a letter that describes in general terms how federal, state, and local jurisdictions have a role in pipeline safety. You can read that letter here, though keep in mind it was written to a hazardous liquid pipeline operator, and makes only brief mention of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), whose process plays an integral role in siting interstate gas pipelines. Another good resource for understanding where the lines between federal, state, and local authority lie is a white paper developed by Tom FitzGerald of the Kentucky Resources Council. Again, this is focused on hazardous liquid pipelines, and it is written specifically with Kentucky in mind, though most of the paper is relevant across the US.
A number of local governments have franchise, easement, or road crossing agreements with pipeline operators that specify details regarding under what terms the local government allows the pipeline operator to cross or share right-of-way space owned by the local government. More information about franchise agreements can be found here.
Improved Planning Near Pipelines
Disclosure RequirementsThere have been situations around the country where people have bought property only to find out later that there are existing or proposed pipeline right-of-ways on or near that property. This has caused much unnecessary conflict between property owners, pipeline operators, local government, and real estate professionals. One very basic way to avoid such conflict is to ensure that those buying property have been clearly notified about the right-of-ways that exist so they can make an informed decision about buying such property. Some states and local government have passed disclosure laws to ensure such clear notification. To review some sample disclosure laws click here.
Emergency Responder Training
Numerous national, state, and private organizations have prepared training information or provide in-person training programs for emergency responders to better prepare them for responding to a variety of pipeline emergency situations. To find out more about these programs click here.
National Pipeline Mapping System
The National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) is a geographic information system (GIS) created by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) in cooperation with other federal and state governmental agencies and the pipeline industry. The NPMS consists of geospatial data, attribute data, public contact information, and metadata pertaining to the interstate and intrastate gas and hazardous liquid transmission pipelines, liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities, and hazardous liquid breakout tanks jurisdictional to PHMSA. These GIS layers are available to local governments.
The nominal accuracy of geospatial data in the NPMS is +/-500 feet. Therefore, the NPMS should never be used as a substitute for contacting a one-call center before excavating.
Remember to call be for you dig by dialing 811! To find a pipeline in your area visit the National Pipeline Mapping System at https://www.npms.phmsa.dot.gov/
|Creating a Pipeline Safety Advisory Committee|
One great asset to a state is the creation of a citizens committee on Pipeline Safety. In 2000, the Washington State Governor and the State Legislature established, in state law, the Citizens Committee on Pipeline Safety (CCOP). CCOP has been established 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.” The committee consists of nine voting members representing the public, including local government, and elected officials. Four non-voting members represent owners and operators of hazardous liquid and gas pipelines. For more information on the Citizens Committee on Pipeline Safety, please check out the following information:
National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC)http://www.naruc.org/committees.cfm?c=25
NARUC’s mission is to serve the public interest by improving the quality and effectiveness of public utility regulation. Under State law, NARUC’s members have the obligation to ensure the establishment and maintenance of utility services as may be required by the public convenience and necessity, and to ensure that such services are provided at rates and conditions that are just, reasonable and nondiscriminatory for all consumers.
National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives (NAPSR)This organization also has good information about state pipeline safety programs and regulations. Their website provides links to state program managers, and includes a link to their compendium of state pipeline safety initiatives.
Community Assistance and Technical Services (CATS)
Pipeline Studies and Special ReportsDOT, PHMSA web portal for local government officials: http://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/comm/LocalOfficials.htm
DOT, PHMSA 2010 report: Building Safe Communities – Pipeline Risk and its Application to Local Government Decisions