Pipeline Operators Watching PHMSA's New Rules

The DOT agency issued a final rule Jan. 19 requiring faster notification by operators after pipeline accidents and on Jan. 13 issued one meant to improve the safety of pipelines transporting hazardous liquids. But the latter was withdrawn 11 days later so the Trump administration can review it.

Some new final rules from DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) are being watched closely by the pipeline industry as the Trump administration's policy requiring a review is being carried out, two lawyers from Bracewell LLP explain in a National Law Review article this week. Michael Weller and Jason B. Hutt, who heads the law firm's Environmental and Natural Resources practice, are discussing the hazardous liquids final rule, which was issued Jan. 13 and withdrawn Jan. 24 in response to the policy. It now must be reviewed by the Trump administration, and its fate "is a bit uncertain, particularly because certain aspects were supported by the industry," they point out.

This rule includes new requirements for operators of hazardous liquid pipelines, as it "extends the requirement to use leak detection systems beyond HCAs [high consequence areas] to all regulated, non-gathering hazardous liquid pipelines. Additionally, integrity assessments are now required at least once every 10 years for onshore, piggable, transmission hazardous liquid pipeline segments located outside of HCAs," they write. "With respect to pipelines in or affecting HCAs, PHMSA has adopted a new requirement that such pipelines accommodate in-line inspection tools within 20 years, unless the basic construction of a pipeline cannot be modified to permit that accommodation. The Final Rule also sets out new reporting obligations for certain hazardous liquid gravity and rural gathering lines and guidelines for the inspection of pipelines in areas affected by extreme weather, natural disasters, and other similar events."

The agency also issued a final rule Jan. 19 requiring faster notification by operators after pipeline accidents. This one also amends drug and alcohol testing requirements and incorporates consensus standards by reference for in-line inspection and Stress Corrosion Cracking Direct Assessment.

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