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
PENDING FEDERAL RULEMAKINGS
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.
UPDATE: Pipeline Safety: Class Location Change Requirements – (Docket PHMSA-2017-0151) PHMSA issued a proposed rule on October 14, 2020. Comments are due December 14, 2020. From the proposal’s summary:
This proposed rule would add an alternative set of requirements operators could use, based on implementing integrity management principles and pipe eligibility criteria, to manage certain pipeline segments where the class location has changed from a Class 1 location to a Class 3 location. Through required periodic assessments, repair criteria, and other extra preventive and mitigative measures, PHMSA expects this alternative approach would provide long-term safety benefits consistent with the current natural gas pipeline safety rules while also providing cost savings for pipeline operators.
Pipeline Safety: Valve Installation and Minimum Rupture detection standards (Docket PHMSA-2013-0255) Following the tragedy in San Bruno, the NTSB recommended (again) that PHMSA require automatic or remote control valves on transmission lines. After a couple of studies and several years, PHMSA issued a proposed rule requiring automatic or remote control valves in limited circumstances on new and fully replaced lines. Comments were due in April 2020. Both the Trust and the NTSB commented on the proposal, saying that it should apply to all lines, not just new ones. The NTSB has left the recommendation “Open”, and has added remote control and automatic valves to its Most Wanted list. NTSB member Jennifer Homendy wrote a post about this proposal, urging stronger action and stating in no uncertain terms that the proposal would not fulfill the Board’s recommendation. During the Advisory Committee meeting where this proposal was reviewed, PHMSA indicated that statutory provisions, including the cost-benefit requirement of 49 USC 60102 and the terms of 49 USC 60104(b) which limits applicability of new regulations affecting design, construction and initial testing to new pipelines, prevent it from adopting a valve rule that would apply to existing lines. Clearly both of these statutory constraints need to be changed. As of October 2020, no final valve rule has been issued.
Pipeline Safety: Gas Regulatory Reform (Docket PHMSA-2018-0046) Comments were due on the proposed rule on August 10, 2020.
PHMSA is seeking comments on proposed amendments to the Federal Pipeline Safety Regulations that are intended to ease regulatory burdens on the construction, maintenance and operation of gas transmission, distribution, and gathering pipeline systems. The amendments in this proposal are based on PHMSA’s considered review of public comments, petitions for rulemaking, and an agency initiative to identify appropriate areas where regulations might be repealed, replaced, or modified.
Pipeline Safety: Underground Natural Gas Storage Facilities – (Docket PHMSA-2016-0016) Comments were due November 20, 2017. In November 2018, PHMSA indicated that a final rule would be published in January 2019.
PHMSA issued an interim final rule that requires operators of underground storage facilities for natural gas to comply with minimum safety standards, including compliance with API RP 1171, Functional Integrity of Natural Gas Storage in Depleted Hydrocarbon Reservoirs and Aquifer Reservoirs, and API RP 1170, Design and Operation of Solution-mined Salt Caverns Used for Natural Gas Storage. This rule was reopened for comment because of concerns raised by industry. Comments on this rule from all parties can be found here.
Safety of Gas Transmission and Gathering Pipelines (Docket PHMSA-2011-0023) – comments were due July 7, 2016 (extended from June 7, 2016). The rule has been split into multiple efforts, and parts of it have not been published in final form as of October 2020. Part of it was published as a final rule in September 2019, and was the subject of a petition for reconsideration from industry in October 2019. PHMSA responded to that petition with a further revision effective July 2020. You can find the entire docket and any updates on regulations.gov under the docket number listed above.
This [original] 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). Comments on this rule from all parties can be found here. 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. Comments on this rule from all parties can be found here. 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.
Safety of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines – (Docket PHMSA-2010-0229)
UPDATE: The final rule was published in September 2019. You can find it here: https://beta.regulations.gov/document/PHMSA-2010-0229-0135
PHMSA issued a final rule in this docket on January 13, 2017, but the new presidential administration has put a hold on this rule for review. At this time we do not know what the process or timeline for moving this major rule forward is. Comments on this rule from all parties can be found here.
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.
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. Relatively recent federal workshops and meetings are listed below with links for information on how to participate. For a full roster of PHMSA public meetings go to their webpage here:
Coastal Ecological Unusually Sensitive Areas Public Meeting – Nov. 17, 2017 Washington DC
PHMSA Pipeline Safety Research and Development Forum – Nov. 16 & 17, 2016, Cleveland ,OH
PHMSA workshop on Pipeline Public Awareness Program – July 13, 2016, Chicago, IL
PHMSA Workshop on Underground Natural Gas Storage Safety – July 14, 2016 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
Public Workshop for Oil Spill Response Planning and Preparedness – April 12, 2016, Washington DC
FEDERAL PIPELINE SAFETY PROGRAM REAUTHORIZATION
Updated October 2020: The US Senate has passed a reauthorization bill for PHMSA, S 2299. Two House Committees are continuing work on their bills. It is not yet clear whether a bill will be adopted by both houses in a lame duck session after the November election, or whether it will have to be taken up after the first of the year.
Updated June 22, 2016: President Obama has signed the 2016 PIPES act. You can find it here.
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.
FEDERAL ADVISORY COMMITTEES
PHMSA has three advisory committees mandated by law. Two of the committees – Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee (GPAC) and the Liquid Pipeline Advisory Committee (LPAC) review all PHMSA proposed rules and make recommendations to the Secretary of Transportation. The third committee is the Voluntary Information-sharing System (VIS) Working Group which was formed to consider the development of a voluntary information-sharing system to encourage collaborative efforts to improve inspection information feedback and information sharing with the purpose of improving gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipeline facility integrity risk analysis. These committees hold public meetings multiple times each year, and during those meetings there are opportunities for the public to comment on issues being addressed by the committees. You can learn more about these committees, the committees current membership, and dates and locations of meetings on the Pipeline Advisory Committee website.
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.
On November 29, the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (OGCC) issued an Amended Notice of Rulemaking Hearing to consider additions and amendments to its Rules of Practice and Procedure as part of its previously announced “Flowline Rulemaking,” issued on October 15. The Flowline Rulemaking is meant to strengthen regulations applicable to flowlines and to improve uniformity of operator participation in the one-call program. A public hearing will be held on January 8-9, 2018.
On December 7, 2017 the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) issued an Order Opening Inquiry to gather information from utilities, stakeholders and the public regarding best practices for increasing the effectiveness of the one-call program regarding locating and digging near underground utilities. The IUB initiated the investigation pursuant to a grant received from PHMSA to support education and enforcement programs for locating and excavating near natural gas pipelines. Responses from utilities with underground facilities are due January 16, 2018. Responses from the general public are due January 23, 2018. A workshop to discuss the comments is scheduled for February 27, 2018.
On December 8, the Department of Public Service Regulation issued a Notice of Proposed Amendment that would adopt the federal pipeline safety regulations codified in Parts 191, 192, and 193 of PHMSA’s pipeline safety regulations effective as of October 30, 2017. The regulations currently adopt the pipeline safety regulations as of October 30, 2016. Comments are due January 8, 2018.
On November 15, the Public Service Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rule that would adopt the federal pipeline safety regulations codified in Parts 190, 191, 192, 198, and 199 of PHMSA’s pipeline safety regulations effective as of September 1, 2017. The regulations currently adopt the pipeline safety regulations as of September 1, 2015. Comments are due January 2, 2018.
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.
The California state Legislature has proposed a bill that would require, commencing January 1, 2017, the State Fire Marshal, or an officer or employee authorized by the State Fire Marshal, to annually inspect all intrastate pipelines and operators of intrastate pipelines under the jurisdiction of the State Fire Marshal, and would require the State Fire Marshal to adopt regulations implementing this provision by that date. The bill would prohibit the State Fire Marshal from becoming an inspection agent for specified interstate pipelines unless all regulatory and enforcement authority over those pipelines is transferred to the State Fire Marshal from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The bill would require the State Fire Marshal to revise specified fees assessed to cover the costs associated with this measure. This bill passed and was signed into law by the governor on 10/6/2015
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