Operations & Safety

PHMSA Creates Webpage on Status of PIPES Act

President Barack Obama signed the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act on June 22, 2016. Visit the page at www.phmsa.dot.gov/pipes-act

PHMSA Issues Excess Flow Valve Rule

In the October 14 Federal Register, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a final rule mandating installation of excess flow valves (EFV) on new and replaced service lines to multifamily residential and small commercial customers. The rule takes effect April 14, 2017. APGA has reviewed the final rule and finds that PHMSA has addressed most of the concerns raised in APGA’s written comments on the July 15, 2015 proposed rule and the recommendations of PHMSA’s technical advisory committee from its December 17, 2015 conference call. A copy of the rule can be found here. You can also view a webinar on the EFV rule here

PHMSA Releases General Policy Statement on Civil Penalties

Under the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) may assess civil penalties of up to $200,000 per day for violations of its pipeline safety regulations. (PHMSA) may assess civil penalties of up to $200,000 per day for violations of its pipeline safety regulations. The law specifies that in determining the amount of any civil penalty PHMSA must consider:

  • The nature, circumstances and gravity of the violation, including adverse impact on the environment;
  • The degree of the respondent’s culpability;
  • The respondent’s history of prior offenses;
  • Any good faith by the respondent in attempting to achieve compliance; and,
  • The effect on the respondent’s ability to continue in business.

And, PHMSA may consider the economic benefit gained from violation, if readily ascertainable, without any reduction because of subsequent damages as well as other matters as justice may require. A copy of the policy statement can be found here.

PHMSA Issues Interim Final Rule Providing Authority to Issue Emergency Orders

On October 4 the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued an Interim Final Rule (IFR) to implement the agency’s expanded authority to address unsafe pipeline conditions or practices that pose an imminent hazard to life, property, or the environment. This was authorized by the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines Enhancing Safety Act of 2016, that allows the agency to impose emergency restrictions, prohibitions, and safety measures on owners and operators of gas or hazardous liquid pipeline facilities to address safety concerns affecting multiple owners or operators. Examples of when PHMSA may need to use this enhanced authority include instances where a serious manufacturing flaw has been discovered in pipe, equipment or other materials, or when an accident reveals a specific industry practice that is unsafe and needs immediate correction. The IFR is effective once posted to the Federal Register, although comments will be accepted within 60 days of publication. A copy of the full text of the IFR can be found here.

APGA Urges PHMSA to Modify Proposed Transmission Rule Changes

On July 7, APGA filed written comments with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) urging them to modify proposed changes to pipeline safety regulations primarily affecting transmission pipelines. Only 62 public natural gas systems have pipe classified as transmission, however virtually all APGA members receive gas through transmission lines, therefore transmission operators would try to pass any additional costs imposed by PHMSA’s rules on to their municipal gas customers. 
The proposed rule covers 136 Federal Register pages and proposed many complex and interrelated changes. A copy of the proposed rule APGA’s written comments can be found here.

PHMSA to Hold Public Awareness Workshop

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is sponsoring a one-day public workshop on July 13 in Chicago on public awareness to bring pipeline safety stakeholders together to review the findings from the joint Public Awareness Program Working Group’s (PAPWG) Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) Report. Read it here. To register​, please go here.

PHMSA Issues Advisory on Corrosion Protection

On June 21, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued an advisory bulletin to remind all owners and operators of hazardous liquid, carbon dioxide, and gas pipelines to consider the overall integrity of the facilities to ensure the safety of the public and operating personnel and to protect the environment. Read it here.

Plastic Pipe Database Committee Releases Report on Plastic Pipe Performance

On May 26, the Plastic Pipe Database Committee (PPDC) released the latest update on in-service failures of plastic pipe and components. Read it here.

PHMSA Proposes Major Changes to Transmission Pipeline Regulations

On March 17, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) provided APGA with an advance copy of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) making major changes to transmission integrity management regulations as well as other changes affecting transmission pipelines. According to data available on PHMSA’s website, about 67 public natural gas systems operate lines classified as transmission, although most are less than eight inches in diameter unlike the large diameter interstate pipelines normally associated with the term. Click here to read the RPRM.

PHMSA Issues Advisory on Snow and Ice Impact on Distribution Systems

On February 11, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued an advisory bulletin advising owners and operators of petroleum gas and natural gas facilities of the need to take the appropriate steps to prevent damage to pipeline facilities from accumulated snow or ice. Past events on natural gas distribution system facilities appear to have been related to either the stress of snow and ice or the malfunction of pressure control equipment due to ice blockage of pressure control equipment vents. This advisory reminds owners and operators of the need to take precautionary actions to prevent adverse events. A copy of the advisory can be found here.

PHMSA Advisory on Underground Storage Safety Provides Insight into California Storage Leak

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued an advisory urging operators of underground storage facilities to have processes, procedures, mitigation measures, periodic assessments and reassessments, and emergency plans to maintain the safety and integrity of all wells and associated storage facilities whether operating, idled, or plugged. While only one or two public natural gas systems operate underground storage, the advisory contains useful information about the leak at an underground storage facility in Los Angeles that is garnering much press attention. This information may be useful to APGA members to answer questions from constituents. The advisory can be found here.

PHMSA Flooding Advisory Bulletins 

With the very heavy flooding currently occurring in some parts of the country, it is appropriate that operators maintain vigilance and awareness and be ready to take action on the risks created by major flooding to ensure safety and protect the environment.  PHMSA’s most recent advisory bulletins on flooding are here and here.

 

PHMSA Extends Comment Period, Announces Workshop of Mapping System

In the October 26 Federal Register, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced it will conduct a one-day National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) operator technical workshop on November 18 at a Washington, D.C., area hotel. The notice also announced that the comment period for the 60-day information collection published on August 27 is extended until November 25 in order to conduct this workshop that will provide PHMSA with important information as it prepares to improve the NPMS submission process to accept additional data. APGA filed written comments on the August 27 notice commending PHMSA for addressing our concerns about the cost of requiring operators to submit data with five-foot accuracy. Transmission pipeline operators had commented that this level of accuracy would be very expensive to achieve and our comments questioned the value of such accuracy to PHMSA. A copy of APGA’s comments can be found here.

PHMSA Delays Construction Inspection Rule Indefinitely

It’s official. On September 30 the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a notice in the Federal Register indefinitely delaying the October 1 effective date of its construction inspection rule. The rule published March 11, made many rule changes including modifying 49 CFR 192.305 to prohibit individuals who performed any task during the construction of a new main or transmission line from performing post-construction inspection of their own work. The final rule included contradictory statements that it was not PHMSA’s intent to force operators to hire outside contractors to perform these inspections, yet provided no alternative to outside inspection in cases where there were no other  operator employees qualified to do the inspections who were not involved in the construction project. On April 10 APGA filed a petition for clarification and reconsideration of the rule.

PHMSA has formed a working to advise it on how to fix the rule. APGA Vice President, Operations represents public gas on the working group. It is anticipated the working group will complete its work and PHMSA will take action in early 2016.

All the other changes made except the construction inspection rule made in the so-called “miscellaneous rule” will take effect today, October 1. These include changes to qualification requirements for plastic pipe joiners. Beginning October 1 a person must be re-qualified under an applicable plastic pipe joining procedure once each calendar year at intervals not exceeding 15 months, or after any production joint is found unacceptable by testing under §192.513. Previously operators only needed to retest plastic pipe joiners if that person does not make any joints under that procedure or else 3 joints or 3 percent of the joints made by that person, whichever is greater, had been found unacceptable. 

A copy of the September 30 notice is here and the March 11 final rule can be found here

PHMSA proposes excess flow valve rule

On September 10, APGA filed written comments suggesting changes to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) proposed rule that would require operators to install excess flow valves (EFV) on new and replaced service lines to residential and commercial customers with meter capacity of 1,000 cubic feet per hour (CFH) or less. The proposal would also require operators to notify all customers about EFVs and install an EFV on any service if requested by the customer. Lastly, the proposal would require operators to install manually operated curb valves on all new and replaced service lines with meter capacities over 1,000 CFH.

APGA’s comments expressed concern about the practicality of notifying all customers about EFVs and installing an EFV if the customer requests it. First, the cost of installing an EFV on an existing service could exceed the customer’s total annual gas bill. PHMSA’s proposed rule did allow operators to require the customer to pay for these costs rather than spread the cost to all customers; however, the proposal required operators to seek approval from the “appropriate state regulatory agency to determine whom and/or how the costs of the requested EFVs are distributed.” APGA pointed out that most distribution systems are not subject to state utility commission oversight over rates charged to customers for gas service. Rates are typically approved by the utility’s governing body. APGA supported PHMSA’s proposal that the customer notification could be a message inserted with customers’ bills and that recordkeeping would be limited to a sample of the notice sent rather than a record of which customers were notified. APGA suggested notification go to all customers annually rather than PHMSA’s proposal that it be sent “within 90 days of the customer first receiving gas at a particular location.” Annual notification would be easier to administer. APGA also urged PHMSA to confirm that the customer for this notification is the individual to whom the utility sends the gas bill.

Finally, APGA vehemently opposed PHMSA’s proposal that curb valves installed on new and replaced services over 1,000 CFH meter capacity be operable by first responders other than utility employees. Comments pointed out that PHMSA’s own “Pipeline Emergencies” firefighter training materials as well as most utility policies prohibit anyone but utility employees from operating underground valves. APGA’s comments also urged PHMSA to reaffirm its long-standing interpretation that valves on service lines are not valves required in an emergency that must be annually inspected and maintained under 49 CFR 192.747.

Over the next few months, PHMSA will consider comments received on the proposed rule before issuing a final rule sometime in 2016. APGA urged PHMSA to delay the effective date for EFV installation and notification for at least six months after the date the final rule is published to allow operators time to modify procedures and train employees to comply with the rule. 

EPA Proposes Measures to Cut Methane Emissions from Oil and Natural Gas Industry

On August 18, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new rules to reduce methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from the oil and gas industry. The proposed rule would apply to natural gas well sites, oil well sites, natural gas production gathering and boosting stations, gas processing plants, and natural gas transmission compressor stations. EPA did not propose any regulations on methane emissions from natural gas distribution systems; however, EPA announced it is creating a voluntary program called Methane Challenge to reduce methane from distribution operators. The proposed requirements for the various sources include finding and repairing leaks as well as control of emissions from compressors and pneumatic controllers at compressor stations.A copy of the proposed rule can be found here

PHMSA Proposes Changes to Operator Qualification and Incident Notification Rules  

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) proposed new requirements to Federal pipeline safety regulations on July 10. The proposed rule would require pipeline operators to notify the National Response Center (NRC) of a reportable incident at the earliest practicable moment following the confirmed discovery of an but not later than one hour following confirmed discovery. In addition the proposed rule would:

  • Updated requirements for operators to review the effectiveness of their operator qualification programs and ensure these programs cover any activity identified by the operator that affects the safety or integrity of the pipeline facility, including performance of operations, maintenance, construction, or emergency tasks;
  • Over-pressure protection requirements for farm taps, while also exempting them from Distribution Integrity Management Program requirements; and
  • An amendment to pipeline safety regulations to require drug and alcohol testing of each employee whose performance either contributed to a pipeline accident or cannot be completely discounted as a contributing factor to an accident.

Currently, Federal regulations do not specify a time limit for notification after a pipeline release, but requires pipeline operators to notify the NRC at the earliest practicable moment once a release is discovered. Section nine of the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 directed PHMSA to revise Federal Pipeline Safety regulations to establish time limits for the telephonic notification of pipeline releases to the NRC. PHMSA has advised operators in the past that the earliest practicable opportunity usually means one-to-two hours after the discovery of the incident. The rulemaking proposal issued today further establishes an enforceable time limit for pipeline failure notifications and adds to PHMSA’s January 30, 2013 Advisory Bulletin, in which the agency advised pipeline operators to contact the NRC within one hour of discovery of a pipeline incident. The rule also clarifies the practical meaning of confirmed discovery to when there is sufficient information to determine that a reportable incident has occurred, even if an evaluation has not been completed.

The NPRM has been transmitted to the Federal Register for publication. An actual date of publication will be determined by the Federal Register, but a preview of the rulemaking proposal transmitted by PHMSA is attached Your comments on the proposal are welcome.

On September 1, APGA filed comments with PHMSA objecting to PHMSA’s proposal that the operator provide estimated quantity of gas lost in the initial notification as operators are unlikely to have this information until after the incident is brought under control. APGA’s comments also objected to recordkeeping provisions that could be interpreted to require the operator to provide training to employees who are already qualified to perform a task. APGA’s comments urged PHMSA to limit training records to only those employees who need training, such as new hires, employees performing tasks they had not previously been qualified for, or for employees who have had qualification revoked for cause. APGA made other suggestions to reduce the burden the rule changes would place on operators. Read the comments here.

EPA Proposes Measures to Cut Methane Emissions From The Oil And Natural Gas Industry

On August 18 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new rules to reduce methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from the oil and gas industry. The proposed rule would apply to natural gas well sites, oil well sites, natural gas production gathering and boosting stations, gas processing plants and natural gas transmission compressor stations. EPA did not propose any regulations on methane emissions from natural gas distribution systems, however EPA announced it is creating a voluntary program called “Methane Challenge” to reduce methane from distribution operators. The proposed requirements for the various sources includes finding and repairing leaks as well as control of emissions from compressors and pneumatic controllers at compressor stations. A copy of the proposed rule can be found here. Comments on the proposal will be due 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

PHMSA Establishes Damage Prevention Enforcement Effectiveness Criteria

On July 23, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a final rule establishing review criteria for state excavation damage prevention law enforcement programs. The rule is a prerequisite for PHMSA to conduct an enforcement proceeding against an excavator in the absence of an adequate enforcement program in the state where a pipeline damage prevention violation occurs.

This final rule amends the pipeline safety regulations to establish the following: criteria and procedures for determining the adequacy of state pipeline excavation damage prevention law enforcement programs; an administrative process for making state adequacy determinations; the federal requirements PHMSA will enforce in states with inadequate excavation damage prevention law enforcement programs; and, the adjudication process for administrative enforcement proceedings against excavators where federal authority is exercised. The development of the review criteria and the subsequent determination of the adequacy of state excavation damage prevention law enforcement programs is intended to encourage states to develop effective excavation damage prevention law enforcement programs to protect the public from the risk of pipeline ruptures caused by excavation damage and allow for federal administrative enforcement action in states with inadequate enforcement programs. The final rule takes effect January 1, 2016. A copy of the rule can be found here.

Excavation Damage Rule 

This final rule on excavation damage prevention will appear in the Federal Register soon. It amends the pipeline safety regulations to establish the following: (1) criteria and procedures for determining the adequacy of State pipeline excavation damage prevention law enforcement programs; (2) an administrative process for making State adequacy determinations; (3) the Federal requirements PHMSA will enforce in States with inadequate excavation damage prevention law enforcement programs; and (4) the adjudication process for administrative enforcement proceedings against excavators where Federal authority is exercised.

PHMSA Plastic Pipe System Safety Regulation Proposal

On May 21 the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) proposed to amend its pipeline safety regulations (49 CFR part 192) to address regulatory requirements involving plastic piping systems used in gas services. The proposed amendments are intended to correct errors, address inconsistencies, and respond to petitions for rulemaking. The requirements in several subject matter areas are affected, including incorporation of tracking and traceability provisions; design factor for polyethylene (PE) pipe; more stringent mechanical fitting requirements; updated and additional regulations for risers; expanded use of Polyamide-11 (PA-11) thermoplastic pipe; incorporation of newer Polyamide-12 (PA-12) thermoplastic pipe; and incorporation of updated and additional standards for fittings. Comments on the proposed changes must be submitted on or before July 31, 2015. The APGA Operations and Safety Committee is currently reviewing the proposal and will develop and submit comments on behalf of APGA. Please contact John Erickson of APGA staff by phone at 202-464-2742 or by email at jerickson@apga.org.

PHMSA proposes to revise § 192.3 by adding definitions for “traceability information” and “tracking information.” All operators would be required to have methods to identify the location of pipe, the person who joined the pipe, and components within the pipeline (i.e., tracking). PHMSA also proposes that operators be required to identify and document the location of pipe manufacture, production, lot information, size, material, pressure rating, temperature rating, and, as appropriate, other information such as type, grade, and model (i.e., traceability). PHMSA proposes to revise § 192.63 to require operators to adopt the tracking and traceability requirements in ASTM F2897-11a, “Standard Specification for Tracking and Traceability Encoding System of Natural Gas Distribution Components (Pipe, Tubing, Fittings, Valves, and Appurtenances. PHMSA also proposes to require operators to maintain records detailing the location of each joint and the person who made the joint.

PHMSA is proposing to require mechanical fittings, joints, or connections to provide a seal plus resistance to a force on the pipe joint equal to or greater than that which will cause no less than 25% elongation of pipe, or the pipe fails outside the joint area if tested in accordance with the applicable standard.

When plastic pipe is installed using trenchless technology (e.g. horizontal directional drilling) the proposal would require each operator to ensure that the path of the excavation will provide sufficient clearance for installation and maintenance activities from other underground utilities and structures. Additionally, PHMSA proposes to require plastic pipe and components that are pulled through the ground to incorporate the use of a “weak link” to prevent damage to the pipeline that could be caused by excessive forces during the pulling process.

IM Management Program Reminder

On October 15, 2014, PHMSA also issued an Advisory Bulletin in the Federal Register expand a December 5, 2012, reminder to operators of gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipeline facilities of their responsibilities under current regulations to perform evaluations of their Integrity Management (IM) programs using meaningful performance metrics that PHMSA has developed guidance on the elements and characteristics of a mature program evaluation process that uses meaningful metrics called Guidance for Strengthening Pipeline Safety through Rigorous Program Evaluation and Meaningful Metrics.

This document provides guidance on the elements and characteristics of a mature program evaluation approach utilizing processes created to define, collect and analyze meaningful performance metrics. This guidance uses the basic requirements and processes previously developed and documented in ASME B31.8S-2004, Managing System Integrity of Gas Pipelines, API Standard 1160, Managing System Integrity for Liquid Pipelines, ANSI / GPTC Z380, Guide for Gas Transmission and Distribution Piping Systems, 2012 Edition and the Part 192 and 195 Integrity Management (IM) rules.

PHMSA Requires 60 Day Construction Notice

September 12, 2014 - PHMSA Issues Advisory on Construction Notification regarding the requirement that pipeline operators notify PHMSA 60 days prior to certain construction projects. This requirement applies to distribution operators as well as transmission pipeline operators. Specifically, 49 CFR 191.22(c) requires each operator of a gas pipeline, gas pipeline facility, LNG plant or LNG facility must notify PHMSA electronically through the National Registry of Pipeline and LNG Operators athttp://opsweb.phmsa.dot.gov of any of the following events not later than 60 days before the event occurs:

  1. Construction or any planned rehabilitation, replacement, modification, upgrade, uprate, or update of a facility, other than a section of line pipe, that costs $10 million or more. If 60 day notice is not feasible because of an emergency, an operator must notify PHMSA as soon as practicable;
  2. Construction of 10 or more miles of a new pipeline; or
  3. Construction of a new LNG plant or LNG facility.

PHMSA wants to ensure that operators understand how the earliest possible notification to PHMSA of construction-related events is beneficial to both PHMSA and the operator. PHMSA also recognizes that the determination of whether a pipeline operator has complied with the reporting regulations in these codes must be determined on a case-by-case basis with regards to the specific facts of each project and with regards to the code language. A copy of the complete advisory bulletin can be downloaded here.