Pipeline Safety Advocacy

Federal Regulations

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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 hereYou 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 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 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. 

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.

Legislation

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