On November 2, 2021, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ("PHMSA") issued a Final Rule (the “Final Rule”) to revise 49 C.F.R. Parts 191 and 192 to expand federal oversight of U.S. onshore natural gas gathering pipelines. Under the Final Rule, more than 400,000 miles of previously unregulated gas gathering lines will be subject to federal oversight. To accomplish this, the Final Rule creates two new categories of onshore gas gathering lines: Type C, subject to Parts 191 and 192, and Type R, subject to sections of Part 191. Operators can expect oversight to come quickly, with implementation to begin in 2022 and annual reports due on March 15, 2023.
The Final Rule has two major components. First, the definition of “regulated” expands to subject currently unregulated onshore gas gathering lines to federal safety regulations (Type C lines). Additionally, for the first time all gathering line operators must report safety data such as incident and annual reports (Type C and R lines). PHMSA believes these changes fill a critical regulatory gap.
The Final Rule introduces a new type of regulated gathering line, Type C. Type C lines have an outside diameter greater than 8.625 inches and are found in rural, Class 1 locations. Under §192.9(e), the safety requirements for Type C lines vary depending on factors such as pipeline size and the “consequences of a failure.” For example, Type C lines with an outer diameter greater than 16 inches, and those with an outside diameter greater than 12.75 inches that could impact residential areas and “other structures” must comply with stricter regulation.
The Final Rule will also create a new category of gas gathering line subject only to reporting and monitoring requirements, the Type R line. Type R lines include any onshore gathering line that does not fall under Type A, B or C. It is important to note that the Type R lines are not subject to the Part 191 registration requirements or the Part 192 safety standards. Therefore, unlike Type C lines, only the incident and annual reporting requirements of Part 191 apply to Type R lines.