On March 18, 2014, the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) published amended rules in which the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio revised Administrative Code Chapter 4901:1-16 (governing gas pipeline safety) in the Register of Ohio. This “final filing” of a rule is the last step in the rule-making process before a regulatory agency’s revisions or amendments to a rule can become effective. The effective date of the revised rules is March 28, 2014.

Revised Definitions

The previous version of Chapter 4901:1-16 defined “operator” as:

  1. A gas company as defined by R.C. 4905.03(A)(5);
  2. A natural gas company, including a producer of gas which does business as a natural gas company pursuant to R.C. 4905.03(A)(6);
  3. A pipeline company, when engaged in the business of transporting gas by pipeline as defined R.C. 4905.03(A)(7);
  4. A public utility, when engaged in supplying or transporting gas by pipeline within this state, and that is excepted from the definition of “public utility” R.C. 4905.02 (B) or (C); or
  5. Any person who owns, operates, manages, controls, leases, or maintains an intrastate gas pipeline facility or who engages in the transportation of gas….”Operator” does not include an ultimate consumer who owns a service line on the real property of that ultimate consumer.

The revised rule explicitly excludes from the definition of operator “a gas gathering/processing plant pipeline operator as defined in paragraph (F) or any person that owns, operates, manages, controls, or leases a gas gathering pipeline as defined in paragraph (E)”. Please note, however, that while gas gathering/processing plant pipeline operators are not per se “operators”, revised 4901:1-16-01(F) makes it clear that a person can be both an “operator” and a “gas gathering/processing plant pipeline operator”.

Unlike the previous version of the rule, revised Chapter 4091:1-16-01 defines “gas gathering pipeline”(a gathering line not regulated under the federal Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act); “gas gathering/processing plant pipeline operator” (any person that owns, operates, manages, controls or leases a gas gathering pipeline or processing plant gas stub pipeline); “gas processing plant” (a plant that processes raw natural gas into merchantable products); and “horizontal well.”

Broadened Applicability

The following sections have been revised to broaden the scope of the rules to explicitly include gas gathering/processing plant pipeline operators within the purview of the regulation for purposes of Chapter 4901:1-16:

All requirements under the above-mentioned chapters that formerly only applied to “operators” now also clearly apply to gas gathering/processing plant pipeline operators.

New Requirements for pipelines that transport gas from horizontal wells

Section 4901:1-16-15 is a new rule adopted in direct response to Senate Bill 315, which became effective September 10, 2012. Senate Bill 315 amended R.C. Section 4905.03, which describes the entities that are considered “public utility” as stated in R.C. 4905.02, and extended the pipeline safety jurisdiction of the PUCO to include natural gas gathering lines and processing plant gas stub pipelines. Section 4901:1-16-15 incorporates those requirements into the Commission’s gas pipeline safety standards.

Now gas gathering/processing plant pipeline operators must comply with the federal minimum safety standards with respect to design, construction, corrosion control; damage prevention;  public education programs; establishment of a pipeline’s maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP); installation of pipeline markers; and performance and recording of leakage surveys. This new rule also requires pipeline operators to submit specific pipeline information to the public safety division of the PUCO within 21 days of commencement of a gas gathering/processing plant pipeline. Pipeline route and operating information must be submitted to the PUCO at least 60 days after completion of the pipeline construction.