In This Issue

Gas and Hazardous Liquid Gathering Lines: Clarification of Rulemaking Intentions and Extension of Time for Comments

This notice clarifies RSPA/OPS’s rulemaking approach to gathering lines regulation and explains the type of information RSPA/OPS is seeking. It also extends the deadline for written comments to March 4, 2004 [Docket No. RSPA-98-4868 (gas), Notice 4; and RSPA-03-15864 (liquid), Notice 2]. All written comments should identify the gas or liquid docket number and notice number stated in the heading of this notice.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: DeWitt Burdeaux by phone at 405-954-7220 or by e-mail at regarding the subject matter of this notice.

Because of disagreements over the meaning of gas “gathering line” in 49 CFR part 192 , RSPA/OPS has twice proposed to redefine the term. The first proposal was withdrawn (43 FR 42773; September, 1978), and the second (56 FR 48505; September 25, 1991) remains open. In reaction to unfavorable comments on these proposals, RSPA/OPS delayed final action pending the collection and consideration of further information on the gas “gathering line” issue. In contrast, RSPA/OPS has had little difficulty applying the definition of petroleum “gathering line” in 49 CFR part 195.

Following the second proposal to define gas “gathering line,” Congress directed DOT to define “gathering line” for both gas and hazardous liquid pipelines, and, “if appropriate,” define as “regulated gathering line” those rural gathering lines that, because of specific physical characteristics, should be regulated (49 U.S.C. 60101(b)). In furtherance of the open rulemaking proposal and the congressional directives, RSPA/OPS held an internet discussion that focused on a definition offered by the Gas Processors Association (GPA) (Docket No. RSPA-98-4868; 64 FR 12147 ; March 11, 1999).

However, follow-up action stalled because RSPA/OPS and its associated state pipeline safety agencies were concerned that physical pipeline features referenced in the GPA definition were changeable. As a stopgap, while deliberating on a suitable alternative to the 1991 proposal, RSPA/OPS published an advisory bulletin reminding pipeline operators that we would continue to define gas gathering based on historical interpretations and court precedents until further notice ( 67 FR 64447 ; October 18, 2002).

Specific Requests for Comment

Seven gathering line issues that RSPA believes are important are repeated below:

  1. The point where gas production ends and gas gathering begins.
  2. The point where gas gathering ends and gas transmission or distribution begins.
  3. In defining “regulated gathering line,” whether we should consider factors besides those specified by Congress. For example, should we consider population density (by census or house count), or, for hazardous liquid lines, potential for environmental damage.
  4. Whether Part 195 should apply to rural gathering lines that operate at more than 20 percent of SMYS, or that could adversely affect an “unusually sensitive area” as defined in Sec. 195.6? (Note: certain crude oil gathering lines are, by law, exempt from safety regulation.)
  5. If you recommend safety regulations for rural gas or hazardous liquid gathering lines, to which rural lines would the regulations apply and why, approximately how many miles would be covered by the regulations, and what would be the estimated cost per mile of complying with the regulations?
  6. The approximate mileage of rural gathering lines not now covered by Part 195.
  7. Whether safety regulations for gas or hazardous liquid rural gathering lines operating at low stress (e.g., 20 percent or less of SMYS) or a specified pressure for plastic lines should be fewer and possibly less stringent than regulations for other rural gathering lines?

Other Considerations

Non-rural gathering lines. Under Parts 192 and 195, onshore gathering lines are considered rural–and unregulated–if they lie outside the limits of any incorporated or unincorporated city, town, village, or any other designated residential or commercial area, such as a subdivision, a business or shopping center, or community development. Conversely, some gathering lines or portions of lines that are inside these limits–and now regulated–are similar to rural lines in that they are not in, or close to, inhabited areas. Should the risk-based approach to regulating rural gathering lines also apply to the regulation of non-rural gathering lines? If so, assuming population density was the risk-based approach, what reduction in currently regulated mileage might result from particular density levels? What would be the associated savings in cost of compliance?

Compliance time. In the public meetings, RSPA discussed time lines for compliance. What would be the appropriate time for operators to achieve compliance? RSPA has also considered establishing milestones for achieving compliance, including early compliance dates for easily implemented regulations, coupled with longer times for more complex regulations requiring greater capital expenditures. Does this appear to be an appropriate path and, if so, what should these times be and which categories of regulations should fall into which time frames?