Each year, the nation’s pipelines deliver trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of billions of ton-miles of liquid petroleum products. On Oct. 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”) published three final rules in the Federal Register aimed at strengthening the safety of more than 500,000 miles of onshore gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipelines throughout the U.S. and enhancing PHMSA’s authority to issue an emergency order to address unsafe safety conditions or hazards that pose an imminent threat to pipeline safety.

The three rules are: (1) Safety of Gas Transmission Pipelines: MAOP Reconfirmation, Expansion of Assessment Requirements, and Other Related Amendments; (2) Safety of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines; and (3) Enhanced Emergency Order Procedures. As published, they have the following overall impacts:

I. Safety of Gas Transmission Pipelines: MAOP Reconfirmation, Expansion of Assessment Requirements, and Other Related Amendments

The gas transmission rule was prompted in part by two incidents on gas pipeline systems, one in San Bruno, Calif., and one near Sissonville, W. Va., resulting in serious harm to life and property. These incidents underscored the need for PHMSA to enhance integrity management requirements and address other issues related to pipeline system integrity. To address these issues, the lengthy final rule includes many significant components such as: (i) a six-month grace period for the completion of periodic integrity management reassessments; (ii) consideration of seismicity in identifying and evaluating potential threats; (iii) reporting requirements for exceedances of the maximum allowable operating pressure (“MAOP”); (iv) reconfirmation of the MAOP of certain onshore steel gas transmission pipeline segments; (v) performance of integrity assessments on certain pipelines outside of high consequence areas (“HCAs”); and (vi) specific pressure safety features on in-line inspection launchers and receivers.

This final rule has an effective date of July 1, 2020.

II. Safety of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

The hazardous liquid rule is PHMSA’s response to several significant hazardous liquid pipeline accidents that have occurred in recent years, most notably the 2010 crude oil spill near Marshall, Michigan, during which at least 843,000 gallons of crude oil were released, significantly affecting the Kalamazoo River. This rule, which amends the Pipeline Safety Regulations (49 C.F.R. pts. 190-99), is intended to improve protection of the public, property, and the environment by closing regulatory gaps where appropriate and ensuring that operators are increasing the detection and remediation of pipeline integrity threats, and mitigating the adverse effects of pipeline failures. The amendments include: (i) extension of reporting requirements to certain hazardous liquid gravity and rural gathering lines not currently regulated by PHMSA; (ii) required inspections of pipelines in areas affected by extreme weather or natural disasters; (iii) performance of integrity assessments at least once every 10 years; (iv) use of leak detection systems beyond HCAs to all regulated hazardous liquid pipelines, except for offshore gathering and regulated rural gathering pipelines; and (v) accommodation of in-line inspection tools by all pipelines in or affecting HCAs within 20 years.

This final rule has an effective date of July 1, 2020.

III. Enhanced Emergency Order Procedures

Lastly, the enhanced emergency order procedures rule adopts the provisions of a 2016 interim final rule, which implemented PHMSA’s authority to issue emergency orders to address imminent hazards to public health and safety or the environment. The rule establishes procedures for the issuance of emergency orders; describes the duration and scope of such orders; and provides a mechanism by which pipeline owners and operators subject to, and aggrieved by, emergency orders can seek administrative or judicial review.

This final rule has an effective date of Dec. 2, 2019.