APGA Files Comments on PHMSA Operator Qualification FAQs

By Erin Kurilla posted 16 days ago

On February 16, APGA filed joint comments with the American Gas Association (AGA), Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), and American Petroleum Institute (API), on the proposed Operator Qualification (OQ) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

The comments address each of the 40 proposed OQ FAQs and bring forward six major themes that are repeated throughout the comments:

1. Distinction between Training & Qualification: 49 CFR 192, Subpart N does not require training; therefore, the OQ FAQs should not imply that training is required by regulation.

2. Covered O&M Activities: The comments remind PHMSA that not all operations & maintenance (O&M) tasks meet the third element of the four-part test for determining covered tasks—“performed as a requirement of this part.” Therefore, PHMSA should avoid implying that all O&M tasks are covered tasks.

3. OQ and Procedures: The development and utilization of procedures is separate from OQ requirements. The comments recommend PHMSA avoid addressing requirements for procedures within OQ FAQs as it is confusing and could lead to misinterpretation of the OQ requirements.

4. Characteristics, Procedures, & Equipment: In the proposed OQ FAQs, PHMSA utilizes these three terms frequently. However, all of them are undefined in regulation and can
be overly broad. The comments suggest that PHMSA avoid using these terms in reference to an operator’s system, plans, or procedures.

5. Emergency Response: First responders and company personnel will protect life and property in the event of an incident. OQ should not play a role in this.

6. PHMSA Operator Qualification Glossary: In the opinion of the commenters, PHMSA improperly referenced a glossary document that was never provided for comment and deserves significant consideration before incorporated by reference into the OQ FAQs.

It is very hard to predict when the final revised FAQs will be published, but APGA membership will be notified as soon as they are posted to the PHMSA website.

To view the current OQ FAQs, please visit www.phmsa.dot.gov/pipeline/operator-qualifications/oq-frequently-asked-questions.

For questions on this article, please contact Erin Kurilla of APGA staff by phone at 202-464-2742 or by email at ekurilla@apga.org.