On Aug. 16, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued Advisory Bulletin ADB-2016-05 to owners and operators of pipelines used for the transportation of hazardous liquids, carbon dioxide and gas, clarifying that owners and operators of these pipelines must comply with all safety regulations, even if their pipelines are inactive, decommissioned or idle.

Due to several pipeline leaks involving inactive or idle pipelines over the past few years, Congress had concluded that it was important for PHMSA to clarify the applicability of regulations to pipelines that have been changed in status from active to abandoned and the PHMSA’s stance on idle pipelines.

The Advisory Bulletin states that PHMSA does not recognize “idle,” “inactive” or “decommissioned” pipelines. Rather, PHMSA considers pipelines either active or abandoned for purposes of compliance with applicable safety regulations. Pipelines that have been shut down or even closed off and isolated from other pipelines, but have not been abandoned pursuant to the requirements of 49 CFR § 192.727 and 49 CFR § 195.402(c)(10) for gas and hazardous liquids pipelines, respectively, are still considered active pipelines.

Owners and operators of active pipelines, even if they are idle, inactive or decommissioned, must comply with all applicable safety regulations and requirements, including, among others, periodic maintenance, integrity management assessments and public awareness programs.

Furthermore, while PHMSA recognizes that owners and operators do not necessarily have access to records regarding pipelines that were abandoned prior to the effective date of the regulations, PHMSA notes in its Advisory Bulletin that to the extent feasible, “owners and operators have a responsibility to assure facilities for which they are responsible or last owned do not present a hazard to people, property or the environment.”

For the full text of the bulletin, see 81 Fed. Reg. 54,513.