The final rule incorporates by reference more than 40 voluntary consensus standards into federal pipeline safety regulations.

Pipeline Agency Opts to Retain 2004 NFPA References

Finalizing a proposed rule to incorporate more than 40 voluntary consensus standards in federal pipeline safety regulations, PHMSA said it will not adopt the 2008 editions of NFPA 58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code, and NFPA 59, Utility Liquefied Petroleum Gas Plant Code.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), part of DOT, finalized a proposed rule Wednesday that incorporates by reference more than 40 voluntary consensus standards into federal pipeline safety regulations, effective Oct. 1. However, the agency elected not to adopt the 2008 editions of NFPA 58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code, and NFPA 59, Utility Liquefied Petroleum Gas Plant Code. PHMSA will continue to reference their 2004 editions in part 192 of the federal regulations.

This is important because the current version of Sec. 192.11(c) says that, if a conflict arises between NFPA 58 and 59 and part 192, NFPA 58 and 59 would prevail -- but the proposed rule would have reversed that. PHMSA said some operators are misinterpreting the meaning of "conflict" because they are not following part 192, although they should, for situations where the two NFPA standards are silent or nonspecific.

In Wednesday's final rule, PHMSA said it "believes that NFPA 58 currently fails to sufficiently address damage prevention, odorization, distribution valve maintenance, leak surveys, emergency plans, failure investigation, and public awareness. Because NFPA 58 and 59 currently prevail, when there is a conflict in one of these areas with part 192," it added, "operators would be allowed to comply with a less stringent requirement. Additionally, propane gas does not safely dissipate when it leaks and as a result can represent a greater potential hazard to the public than natural gas. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to impose weaker standards on propane distribution facilities than on natural gas distribution facilities."

The 2008 edition of NFPA 58 "included changes in the requirements for small LPG operators which are in conflict with part 192 requirements. Further, the 2008 edition of NFPA 59 references NFPA 58. If we were to adopt the 2008 edition of NFPA 59," according to the rule, "the referenced sections of NFPA 58 would also be incorporated by reference unless we were to prescribe otherwise. Therefore, PHMSA has decided not to adopt either of the new editions. PHMSA looks forward to working with the committees to improve public safety and resolve issues which may lead to the adoption of the newest editions in the next Periodic Updates of Regulatory References to Technical Standards."

Comments were submitted by the American Gas Association, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, National Propane Gas Association, American Petroleum Institute, the National Fire Protection Association, and others. It appears from the text that only one commenter supported reversing the "primacy" accorded to the two NFPA standards, with NFPA and some other commenters opposing it. In the final rule, PHMSA said it will address the subject of NFPA 58 and 59 primacy under a separate rulemaking. Until then, compliance with part 192 requirements has not changed.

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