On November 6, APGA jointly submitted comments with the American Gas Association and the Northeast Gas Association in response to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) Safety of Gas Distribution Pipelines Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. This proposed rule aims to address several congressional mandates from the PIPES Act of 2020 directly related to the 2018 incident in Merrimack Valley, MA.
PHMSA’s proposals address a wide range of pipeline safety regulatory requirements, including overpressure protection on low-pressure systems, required communication with the general public and customers during emergencies, implementation of management of change for distribution operators, and construction inspection by independent inspectors.
The associations’ comments directly address every provision proposed in the rule and offer direct recommendations on how PHMSA should modify its proposal to meet the statutory requirements: reasonable, practicable, cost-effective, and technically feasible. In addition to the technical comments, the associations emphasized the following foundational positions.
• Low-pressure natural gas systems are unique and provide a critical energy source to millions of Americans.
• Natural gas distribution operators have always taken measures to protect their systems from overpressurization, as supported by the infrequency of overpressurization reportable incidents. These actions intensified immediately following the Merrimack Valley, MA incident in 2018.
• For several provisions in this proposed rule, PHMSA has failed to meet its statutory requirement to conduct a risk assessment that identifies the costs and benefits associated with a proposed standard.
• The implementation timeline for the various provisions within the proposed rule must account for the magnitude of changes that must be implemented concurrently. PHMSA must also recognize the interplay between proposals both within this rule and within the Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) rulemaking.
• The associations fully support the proposed requirements that reflect the congressional mandates in the 2020 PIPES Act. Proposed requirements that go beyond the mandates and impose a burden with no discernible improvement to safety cannot be supported.
PHMSA will now contemplate the comments received on the rule. The agency’s next step will be to plan a Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee meeting to discuss the proposed rule and received comments. That meeting is not yet scheduled and is not anticipated until late 2024.
For questions on this article, please contact Erin Kurilla of APGA staff by phone at 202-544-1334 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.