Pipeline Safety Update - Issue No. 74

April 9, 2014

Criminal Charges Issued Against Pacific Gas & Electric

On April 1, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Pacific Gas and Electric Company with criminal violations of the Pipeline Safety Act.  The indictment alleges knowing and willful violations of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) gas integrity management regulations and other rules concerning recordkeeping, data gathering and integration, threat identification, assessment tool selection, and risk prioritization.  The charges flow from an investigation into the 2010 San Bruno incident.  The twelve count indictment seeks penalties of approximately $6 million.  No individuals have been charged.  The indictment is here.

White House Notes PHMSA’s Efforts to Help Reduce Methane Emissions

On March 28, the White House released the Administration’s “comprehensive interagency strategy to cut methane emissions” (Methane Strategy), listing new actions the Administration is taking or will take to reduce methane emissions, improve public health and safety, and provide more energy to the nation.  The Methane Strategy includes regulatory actions and voluntary incentive programs that federal agencies will use to address methane emissions.  Of note, the Methane Strategy outlines efforts that PHMSA takes to monitor natural gas pipeline systems and to ensure that leaks and accidental releases are minimized or eliminated, stating that PHMSA will continue to require that pipeline operators take steps to eliminate leaks and prevent accidental methane releases and evaluate the progress of states in replacing cast iron pipelines.

PHMSA Activities

PHMSA seeks comments on numerous changes to OPID Assignment Request and Operator Registry Notification forms.  On March 31, PHMSA issued a notice requesting comments on numerous proposed changes to the OPID Assignment Request form (PHMSA F 1000.1) and Operator Registry Notification form (PHMSA F 1000.2). Proposed changes to the OPID Assignment Request form include collecting state-specific pipeline mileage and facility descriptions, collecting more specific information about ownership structure of gas distribution operators, and aligning the commodity choices for gas distribution and transmission with those in the annual and incident reports.  Proposed revisions to the Operator Registry Notification form (filed to reflect facility construction and changes in ownership or operator) include reducing the number of notification types, modifying the information required when the operating entity changes, collecting data about pipeline miles separate from non-pipeline facilities, and collecting state-specific pipeline mileage and facility descriptions.  PHMSA intends to request that the Office of Management and Budget approve the revised information collection.  Comments are due May 30.  The revised redline of the Operator Registry Notification form with instructions is here. The revised redline of the OPID Assignment Request form with instructions is here.

PHMSA offers grants to universities for pipeline safety research.  On March 31, PHMSA announced that its Competitive Academic Agreement Program is accepting applications from colleges and universities for grants to fund research into innovative solutions to pipeline corrosion and other known pipeline integrity challenges.  PHMSA expects to award up to a total of $500,000 in grants.  The deadline for applying is May 9.

PHMSA proposed penalties in 2013 set record high while serious pipeline incidents were at all-time low. On April 7, PHMSA announced that, in 2013, it proposed a total of $9.7 million in civil penalties for safety violations, the highest annual amount of proposed penalties in the agency’s history.  PHMSA stated that, during 2013, it initiated 266 enforcement cases against pipeline operators.  PHMSA also reported that, since 2009, the industry has experienced 45 percent fewer serious pipeline incidents, i.e., those resulting in fatalities or major injuries. 

PHMSA to host webinar on odorant effectiveness.  On April 22, at 2:30 PM (EST), PHMSA will host a webinar to disseminate the results of its recent research on odorant effectiveness.  Registration is not required.

Reminder:  PHMSA’s Class Location Methodology workshop is April 16.  On April 16, PHMSA will hold a public workshop on whether applying gas transmission integrity management requirements beyond high consequence areas  would mitigate the need for class location requirements.  The workshop will feature presentations from PHMSA, state representatives, and other stakeholders, as well as panel discussions and an overview of the comments received in response to PHMSA’s August 1, 2013 Notice of Inquiry on Class Location Requirements and August 25, 2011 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Safety of Gas Transmission Pipelines.

Representatives Cassidy and McAllister request safety information regarding Midla Pipeline.  On April 3, Representatives Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Vance McAllister (R-LA) requested that PHMSA provide information regarding the safety history of the American Midstream Midla, LLC (“Midla”) pipeline in light of Midla’s application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requesting authorization to abandon the 370-mile pipeline.  The Congressmen seek information regarding the feasibility of retrofitting the pipeline to accommodate in-line inspection tools (pigs) or using an alternative inspection protocol, such as hydrostatic tests to determine the safety of the line, and information regarding the safety trends for pipelines built in the 1920s. 

Status of PHMSA Rulemakings.  The table below reflects the most current publicly available information on the status of PHMSA rulemakings as reported in the DOT’s March 2014 Significant Rulemaking Report.   Additional information from the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is here.


 

Rulemaking & Next
Action

Estimated Date to OMB

DOT Estimated
Publication Date

OIRA Estimated
Publication Date

Excess Flow Valves; NPRM

March 17, 2014

June 27, 2014

May 2014

Issues Related to Use of Plastic Pipe in the Gas Pipeline Industry;  NPRM

No Date Announced

April 2014

April 2014

Safety of Gas Transmission
Pipelines; NPRM

May 8, 2014

August 20, 2014

July 2014

Safety of On-Shore Hazardous Liquid Pipelines; NPRM

March 20, 2014

July 9, 2014

April 2014

Valve Installation and Minimum Rupture Detection Standards; NPRM

September 18, 2014

December 29, 2014

TBD

Enforcement of State Excavation Damage Laws; Final Rule

March 13, 2014

June 25, 2014

March 2014

Miscellaneous Amendments to Pipeline Safety Regulations; Final Rule

March 27, 2014

July 9, 2014

August 2014

Periodic Updates of Regulatory
References to Technical
Standards and Miscellaneous
Amendments;  Final Rule

March 7, 2014

June 18, 2014

TBD

 

Updates from Select States

New North Dakota rules for gathering lines are effective.  On April 1, new rules went into effect providing the North Dakota Industrial Commission, Department of Mineral Resources, Oil and Gas Division with additional authority to regulate gathering lines. 

Industry Updates

Deadline for commenting on draft API Pipeline Safety Management Standard is April 11, 2014.  The deadline for submitting comments on the draft version of API Recommended Practice 1173, Pipeline Safety Management System Requirements (1st Edition, February 2014) (API RP 1173) is April 11.  Developed in response to a safety recommendation issued by the National Transportation Safety Board in the wake of the July 2010 Marshall, Michigan pipeline failure, API RP 1173 provides guidance to operators for developing and maintaining pipeline safety management systems. 

For Your Interest:  The Common Ground Alliance February/March report is here.


To download a full text PDF, which includes Dates of Interest, upcoming PHMSA State Seminars, and State Specific Association Meetings, please click here.