Pipeline Safety Update - Issue No. 85

October 8, 2014

PHMSA Extends Deadline for Commenting on National Pipeline Mapping System Information Collection Request

On September 30, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a Notice extending until December 1 the deadline for submitting comments on a proposed information collection request (ICR), issued July 30, that would require that operators of hazardous liquid and gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities submit substantially more information to the National Pipeline Mapping System.  PHMSA specifically requests comments on a realistic timeline under which pipeline operators could comply with the proposed submission requirements.  The Notice also indicates that PHMSA is working with the Transportation Security Administration to determine the sensitivity of the requested data, and states further that, if the information submitted is requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), all applicable FOIA exemptions would be reviewed to determine whether to publically release the information.

PHMSA Developments

Updates on status of PHMSA Rulemakings.  The table below reflects information on the status of PHMSA rulemakings as reported in the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) October Significant Rulemaking Report.  Additional information from the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is here.  Note that OIRA has not updated this information in several months.

Rulemaking & Next Action

Estimated Date to OMB

DOT Estimated Publication Date

OIRA Estimated Publication Date

Excess Flow Valves; NPRM

April 30, 2014 (actual)

November 3, 2014

August 2014

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

N/A

N/A

June 2014

Safety of Gas Transmission
Pipelines; NPRM

October 16, 2014

January 28, 2015

August 2014

Safety of On-Shore Hazardous Liquid Pipelines; NPRM

May 1, 2014
(actual)

November 20, 2014

July 2014

Valve Installation and Minimum
Rupture Detection Standards; NPRM

December 21, 2014

May 1, 2015

N/A

Enforcement of State Excavation Damage Laws; Final Rule

October 23, 2014

February 4, 2015

August 2014

Miscellaneous Amendments to Pipeline Safety Regulations; Final Rule

November 20, 2014

March 10, 2015

August 2014

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

N/A

N/A

September 2014

Operator Qualification, Cost Recovery, Incident Reporting,
CO2, Special Permit Renewal, and Other Issues; NPRM

October 16, 2014

January 28, 2015

N/A

Industry Updates

PG&E and others appeal CPUC Presiding Officials’ decisionsOn October 2, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and others filed appeals of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Presiding Officers’ decisions, issued on September 2, which found that PG&E violated a number of pipeline safety requirements in connection with the September 2010 gas transmission line rupture in San Bruno, California, and recommended a total of $1.4 billion in penalties.  PG&E has filed appeals of all three decisions finding violations regarding Records (Investigation 11-02-016), Class Location (Investigation 11-11-009), and Construction, Operation, and Maintenance (Investigation 12-01-007); and the proposed decision addressing Fines and Remedies.

The City of San Bruno, California, and the CPUC’s Consumer Protection and Safety Division (CPSD) also filed appeals.  The City of San Bruno’s appeal of the Fines and Remedies decision is here.  The CPSD filed appeals on the decisions on Records, Class Location, and Fines and Remedies.

Additionally, CPUC Commissioners Sandoval, Florio, and Picker filed requests for review of the Fines and Remedies decision. 

Select Updates from the States

CALIFORNIA

SB 1371 (Leno) (now Chapter 525, Statutes of 2014):  This bill requires the CPUC to adopt rules and procedures, while giving priority to safety, reliability, and affordability of service, to minimize natural leaks from CPUC-regulated gas pipeline facilities, with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.    The regulatory proceeding will commence by January 15, 2015, and the rules and procedures would be required to meet the following objectives:  (a) provide for the maximum technologically feasible and cost-effective avoidance, reduction, and repair of leaks and leaking components within a reasonable time after discovery; (b) provide for the ranking or recorded leaks and leaking components by volume or energy content; (c) evaluate natural gas leakage abatement practices to determine effectiveness; and (d) establish and require the use of best practices for leak surveys, patrols, leak survey technology, leak prevention, and leak reduction.  CPUC also must require gas corporations to file reports detailing their leak management practices, new methane leaks by grade, existing methane leaks, and a best estimate of gas loss due to such leaks.  The bill was signed by the Governor on September 21.

KANSAS

On August 21, 2014, the Kansas State Corporation Commission announced a public hearing, to be held on November 4, on proposed amended regulations adopting the 2013 version of the federal gas safety standards set forth in 49 C.F.R. Part 192.  In addition, the proposed amendments would remove the 5-day repair requirement for class 1 leaks; permit utility companies to supervise repairs of natural gas lines in residential areas by defining “yard line” to end at the outside wall of an individually metered residential premise; and simplify the fee collection schedule for safety inspections and supervision by removing outdated assessment information.

MICHIGAN

Michigan Public Service Commission proposes to incorporate federal safety regulations.  On July 17, the Michigan Public Service Commission convened a public hearing on a proposed amendment to its rules to adopt by reference the latest federal gas pipeline safety standards.  The proposed rules would also adopt updated technical standards and clarify the requirements related to the disconnection or abandonment of indoor gas facilities.

HB 5556
(Townsend):  This bill would increase the administrative civil penalties that can be imposed for pipeline safety violations to $20,000 per day, per violation, not to exceed $800,000 for any related series of violations.   It would also require any person who engages in the transportation of gas or who owns or operates pipeline facilities to annually communicate with county and municipal emergency coordinators to review the public education and awareness programs.  The bill was introduced on May 8 and was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Technology.

NEW JERSEY

A2711 (Handlin):  This bill proposes to create the New Jersey Taskforce on Underground Utility Lines for the purpose of studying issues related to placing overhead utilities underground.  The bill was referred to the Assembly Committee on Telecommunications and Utilities.

S 2422 (Greenstein & Bateman):  This bill would require natural gas pipeline utilities to repair or replace leaking natural gas pipelines within time frames to be established by the Dept. of Environmental Protection (“DEP”).  DEP, in consultation with the Board of Public Utilities, would adopt implementing regulations to prioritize time frames for the repair and replacement of pipelines based on the severity of leaks, best practices and repair standards, and de minimis exceptions to the repair and replacement requirements.  The penalties for noncompliance would be those set forth in the Air Pollution Control Act (1954).  The bill was introduced on September 18 and referred to the Senate Economic Growth Committee.

SR No. 91 (Codey, Thompson & Greenstein):  This Senate Resolution urges natural gas pipeline operators to adopt infrastructure, technology and management tools to prevent methane leaks in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the efficient transmission and distribution of natural gas, and reduce the risk of methane gas-related emergencies.

NEW MEXICO

New Mexico Public Regulation Commission initiates rulemaking on excavation and One-Call Requirements.  On July 9, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission proposed to amend its rules for excavation damage prevention and One-Call programs.   The proposed amendments would require the establishment of a “positive response registry system,” and update underground facility operators’ (UFO) response requirements to excavation locate requests to include a “positive response” even if the UFO determines it has no facilities within the proposed excavation limits.  The proposed amendments also would make failure to provide positive responses, pre-mark the intended site, or report damage a “willful” violation.  A public hearing was held on September 24.

NEW YORK

The New York legislature has adjourned for the year without passing proposed pipeline safety legislation.

PENNSYLVANIA

HB 1607 (Baker):  The bill would amend Pennsylvania’s Underground Utility Line Protection Law (One-Call Law) and extend the sunset date of the Act through 2021.  In general, the bill would transfer enforcement authority from the Department of Labor and Industry to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission; create a Damage Prevention Committee; place additional obligations on facility owners, excavators, and project owners; and create an administrative process for the determination of violations and the assessment of penalties.  On June 27, the House passed the bill, and it has been referred to the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.

SB1459: This bill would amend Pennsylvania’s Underground Utility Protection Law to require the use of steel products made in the United States for any “construction, reconstruction alteration, repair, improvement or maintenance of gathering lines.”  The bill was referred to the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee on July 31.

SB1458: This bill would require the use of steel products made in the United States for “casings or other safety devices” used in drilling oil or gas wells.  The bill would apply only to devices added on or after the effective date.  The bill was referred to the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on July 31.

TEXAS

Adoption of regulations regarding federal requirements and farm tap odorizers.  On September 16, the Railroad Commission of Texas (Commission) adopted regulations that update the minimum safety standards by incorporating certain federal pipeline safety regulations that are effective on the date of the amended rule.  The Commission also revised its regulations to clarify that wick-type farm tap odorizers are exempt from certain equipment reporting requirements, but must continue to comply with gas odorization requirements.  The adopted regulations were published in the Texas Register on October 3 and became effective on October 6.

WASHINGTON

Washington adopts civil penalty cap increase.  Effective on October 4, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) will have the authority to impose increased civil penalties for violations of its intrastate gas pipeline safety regulations.  As a result of an amendment adopted on September 3, the maximum per-violation penalty will be increased from $100,000 to $200,000 per violation, and the maximum penalty for a related series of violations will be increased from $1,000,000 to $2,000,000.  These penalty caps are consistent with the limitations in the federal Pipeline Safety Act.  More information 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