PHMSA’s New Rules Aim to Overhaul Pipeline Safety

Steptoe & Johnson PLLC

On October 1, 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”) published three final rules relating to the transportation of hazardous liquids and gas along regulated sectors of the nation’s infrastructure.  As published, the final rules, and their overall impacts, include the following:

I.  Pipeline Safety: Enhanced Emergency Order Procedures

This rule amends an October 14, 2016 interim final rule concerning PHMSA’s authority to institute an emergency order in addressing imminent safety concerns and unsafe practices.  As amended, the final rule provides: (i) the manner in which PHMSA can institute an emergency order; (ii) the duration and scope of such an emergency order; and (iii) a mechanism for the aggrieved pipeline owner and/or operator to seek judicial review of an emergency order.

This final rule has an effective date of December 2, 2019.

II.  Pipeline Safety: Safety of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

This rule dramatically broadens a pipeline owner/operator’s reporting and inspection requirements for hazardous liquid pipelines.  The final rule includes: (i) extending an operator’s reporting requirements to liquid gravity and rural gathering lines; (ii) requiring the inspection of pipelines affected by extreme weather and natural disasters; (iii) requiring integrity assessments at least once every 10 years of onshore hazardous liquid pipeline segments outside of high-consequence areas; (iv) requiring onshore hazardous liquid pipeline segments outside of high-consequence areas to be capable of accommodating in-line inspection tools; (v) extending the required use of leak detection systems beyond high consequence areas to include all regulated, non-gathering hazardous liquid pipelines; and (vi) subject to limited exceptions, requiring all pipelines in or affecting high-consequence areas be capable of accommodating in-line inspection tools within 20 years.

This final rule has an effective date of July 1, 2020.

III.  Pipeline Safety: Safety of Gas Transmission Pipelines: [Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure] Reconfirmation, Expansion of Assessment Requirements, and Other Related Amendments

This final rule concerns increased pipeline owner/operator requirements for gas transmission pipelines and is effectively the regulatory counterpart to PHMSA’s overhaul of hazardous liquid pipelines.  The final rule includes: (i) increased integrity management requirements; (ii) operator reconfirmation of maximum allowable operating pressure of previously untested natural gas transmission pipelines and other pipelines, as applicable; (iii) assessment of pipelines in populated areas that are not designated high-consequence areas; (iv) reporting exceedances of maximum allowable operating pressure; (v) requiring operators to consider the risk for seismicity in integrity management; (vi) increased safety features for in-line inspection launchers and receivers; and (vii) increased recordkeeping provisions.

This final rule has an effective date of July 1, 2020.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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