PHMSA Stays Enforcement in Alaska After Earthquake

The agency's stay provides temporary relief for pipeline and liquefied natural gas facility operators from certain federal pipeline safety regulations, including compliance with operator qualification requirements, but it does not relieve operators of their safety responsibility to use trained, non-impaired workers to perform operation and maintenance tasks.

The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has issued an Emergency Stay of Enforcement for pipeline and liquefied natural gas facility operators dealing with limited resources in Alaska because of the 7.0 magnitude Nov. 30 earthquake that caused damage in and around Anchorage, the state's largest city. The agency's stay provides temporary relief from certain federal pipeline safety regulations, including compliance with operator qualification requirements, but it does not relieve operators of their safety responsibility to use trained, non-impaired workers to perform operation and maintenance tasks.

The stay says PHMSA does not intend to take any enforcement action related to the operators' temporary non-compliance with the operator qualification requirements found in 49 CFR 192.801-809 and 195.501-509, or from the pre-employment and random drug testing requirements in 49 CFR 199.105(a)(c). It says operators who determine they cannot comply with the requirements must notify PHMSA's national safety coordinator, Rod Seeley, and also must maintain documentation of instances when they can't fully comply.

The Emergency Stay took effect Dec. 1 and will remain in effect for 45 days, unless PHMSA determines in writing that it should be extended.

In support of actions taken by EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard, PHMSA also issued an Emergency Waiver Order on Dec. 2 to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a threat to public health, welfare, or the environment caused by actual or potential oil and hazardous materials incidents resulting from the earthquake. The agency reported that it continues to monitor and respond to the effects of the earthquake and to understand its potential effects on hazmat and pipeline operations.

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