New Pipeline Safety Rules Proposed by Federal Government

Midstream energy companies no doubt are wondering how new regulations proposed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will affect them. The rules were announced Thursday and will soon be posted in the Federal Register as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. They will raise safety standards for natural gas pipelines and extend existing regulations to cover lines that are now exempted. The rules will also implement Congressional mandates, including some that will mean new testing requirements for pipelines built before 1970.

“The significant growth in the nation’s production, usage and commercialization of natural gas is placing unprecedented demands on the nation’s pipeline system,” explained U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This proposal includes a number of commonsense measures that will better ensure the safety of communities living alongside pipeline infrastructure and protect our environment.”

The new rules will also expand the scope of safety coverage and add new assessment and repair standards for gas transmission pipelines. They are the result of four congressional mandates from the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011. Some of those mandates stemmed from hearings held by the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works committee chaired by Oklahoma U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe.

The mandate to inspect pipelines built before 1970 is a direct result of the San Bruno, California explosion. Those pipelines were constructed and made operational before any pipeline safety regulations were developed by the government. The investigation of the San Bruno explosion by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed hydrostatic testing of the grandfathered pipelines would have probably uncovered the defective pipe.

“Following significant pipeline incidents such as the 2010 San Bruno, California tragedy, there was a pressing need to enhance public safety and the integrity of the nation’s pipeline system,” said Marie Therese Dominguez, PHMSA Administrator. “The proposal’s components address the emerging needs of America’s natural gas pipeline system and adapt and expand risk-based safety practices to pipelines located in areas where incidents could have serious consequences.”


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