On Jan. 19, 2006, the Technical Pipeline Safety Standards Committee (TPSSC) voted in favor of the proposed rule to use consensus standards to distinguish onshore gathering lines, to establish safety standards for certain higher-risk onshore gathering lines, and to change current standards on low-risk onshore gathering lines. At present, PHMSA’s safety standards do not apply to onshore gathering lines in rural locations, while onshore gathering lines in non-rural locations must meet the same requirements as transmission lines. This regulatory approach is insufficient to assure that conditions on gathering lines that pose a greater risk to the public and property are addressed. And it does not take into account the lower risk some other gathering lines pose. The intended effects of the proposed rules are improved identification of gathering lines, improved public confidence in the safety of gathering lines, and safety requirements better tailored to gathering line risks.
PHMSA is proposing use of a consensus standard to distinguish onshore gathering lines. PHMSA’s gas pipeline safety standards do not provide an adequate basis for distinguishing these pipelines from production facilities and transmission lines. In addition, PHMSA is proposing to establish safety standards for certain higher-risk onshore gathering lines, and to relax current standards on certain low-risk onshore gathering lines. (Onshore gathering lines in inlets of the Gulf of Mexico are not affected.) Operators would use a new risk-based approach to determine which of its gathering lines are “regulated onshore gathering lines” and what safety standards the lines must meet.
Federal law requires PHMSA to submit cost-benefit analyses and risk assessment information on each proposed safety standard to the advisory committees. The TPSSC evaluates the merits of the data and, when appropriate, provide recommendations on the adequacy of the cost-benefit analyses. The TPSSC voted on the reasonableness, cost-effectiveness, and practicability of this proposed regulation.
PHMSA will issue a final rule based on the proposed rule, the comments received from the public, and the vote and comments of the advisory committee.