DOT Pipeline Compliance News

August 2023 Issue

In This Issue

PHMSA Technical Corrections to Valve Installation and Minimum Rupture Detection

[Docket No. PHMSA-2013-0255, Amdt. Nos. 192-134, 195-106]

PHMSA issued editorial and technical corrections clarifying the regulations in its April 8, 2022, final rule titled “Pipeline Safety: Requirement of Valve Installation and Minimum Rupture Detection Standards” for certain gas, hazardous liquid, and carbon dioxide pipelines. (See related article in the June 2022 edition of the “DOT Pipeline Compliance News”). These technical corrections are effective August 1, 2023, and are summarized as follows:

  1. Corrections in § 192.179(e) and (f) to clarify that rupture mitigation valve (RMV) installation exemptions apply to:
    • 1a. Class 1 locations with a PIR of 150 feet or less, and
    • 1b. Class 2 locations with a PIR of 150 feet or less
  2. Corrections in § 192.179(e) and (f) so that it is clear that all new pipelines, regardless of HCA status or class location, must install RMVs in accordance with § 192.179.
  3. Amending § 192.610(b) to make it clear that the provisions applied to transmission pipelines, as in § 192.610(a).
  4. Correcting omission of word “and” from § 192.634(b)(3).
  5. Moving operational requirement for manual operation of valves from § 192.634(c) into § 192.636(h), as originally intended. The requirements at § 192.634 are otherwise unchanged.
  6. Several clarifications related to § 195 (liquids pipelines).
  7. Vacating of all provisions of the final rule as they apply to gas (and liquid) gathering lines, as per the May 2023 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

PHMSA Announces 2023 Gas Property Damage Reporting Threshold

PHMSA is updating the property damage threshold used in the definition of a gas pipeline incident in §191.3 to $139,700. This new threshold is effective on July 1, 2023.  On January 11, 2021, PHMSA published the final rule, “Pipeline Safety: Gas Pipeline Regulatory Reform.” This rule revised the threshold for reporting of gas incidents by amending the definition of an incident in §191.3 and establishing procedures for periodic inflation adjustment for the property damage threshold criterion. The final rule went into effect on March 3, 2021.

Gas Pipeline Incident Property Damage Threshold History

YearEffective DatesThreshold
2023July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2024$139,700
2022July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023$129,300
2021July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022$122,000

PHMSA Pipeline Safety R&D Public Meeting Oct 31 – Nov 1, 2023

[Docket No. PHMSA-2023-0056]

PHMSA announced the 2023 Pipeline Safety Research and Development Forum will be held October 31–November 1, 2023, at the Westin Crystal City, Reagan National Airport, 1800 Richmond Highway, Arlington, VA. PHMSA Pipeline Safety R&D Forum is held to generate a national research agenda that identifies technical challenges; foster solutions to improve pipeline safety and protect the environment; and provide a venue for information exchange among key stakeholders, including the public, states, tribal governments, other federal agencies, industry, and international colleagues.

Registration opens August 8, 2023, and will include a webcast option.  The event is open to the public. Registration and more details can be found on the PHMSA Meeting webpage.

PHMSA Launches Social Equity Mapping Tools

PHMSA’s Social Equity Mapping Tools provide a state-by-state analysis of reportable pipeline incidents and accidents where users can view the cause of pipeline failures, the operator of that line, and the communities affected by the incident. You can access the pipeline tools from the PHMSA website at Pipeline Data Visualization Overview. The tools use GIS technology to track information on reportable incidents that occur on pipelines that transport gas within communities and across states, and pipeline incidents caused by excavation damage.

These tools are part of DOT’s Justice40 Initiative to confront and address underinvestment in disadvantaged communities. These new tools make it easier for users to learn more about pipeline safety incidents affecting their communities.

For full access to the Social Equity Mapping Tools, click here.

Elevate your pipeline operations with RCP’s PDQ™ tool, effortlessly tracking trends, safety benchmarks, and risk analysis. Contact Jessica Foley for a demo and gain insights into natural gas and hazardous liquids pipelines, comparing safety rates and identifying areas for integrity management enhancement. Additionally, PDQ™ offers support in examining Enforcement Actions for pre-audit or post-audit assistance with PHMSA challenges.

Precision Under Pressure: Every Test. Every Time.

TestApp is the first, and only, mobile app specifically designed for pressure testing. RCP created this new software to enable gas distribution operators to wirelessly record pressure test data and automatically generate final test reports, all through the convenience of their phone or tablet.

Why are we so sure that TestApp is the most efficient and effective Pressure Test Solution?

  • Accuracy with Ease
    No more making guesses off of values from a chart. TestApp collects accurate, time-stamped pressure readings directly from digital gauges via Bluetooth technology.
  • Automatic Validation of Test Results 
    Our mobile app effortlessly verifies each pressure test to ensure it meets your company’s specific acceptance criteria.
  • Elimination of Manual Errors
    TestApp adds another layer of data protection by allowing users to avoid having to manually edit pressure readings and timestamps.
  • Paperless Reporting
    TestApp generates a digital final report at the end of each pressure test that includes logs and charts. The report can then be emailed as needed or uploaded to your company server.
  • No Signal? No Problem! 
    TestApp can store your data locally, on your phone or tablet, when you don’t have cell or Wi-Fi signal. Later, that data can be emailed as needed or uploaded to your preferred systems once an internet connection has been restored.

Click here to Test Drive TestApp!

Mike Soraghan with “E&E News” noted in a recent Energywire article that PHMSA’s fines for pipeline safety violations have trended significantly higher in the past couple of years.  Per the article: “Federal civil penalties for pipeline safety violations topped $10 million for the first time in 2021 and rose again last year to $11.6 million. During the Trump administration, fines averaged about $4.5 million per year.”  It also noted that the average penalty in 2022 was nearly $264,000, and the YTD 2023 average is $367,000, while also noting that annual average fine amounts are heavily weighted by one or two very large fines in a year. 

Energywire is a subscription service, but readers of this newsletter can read the article by clicking here.

The Enforcement Corner

The Enforcement Corner summarizes recent PHMSA enforcement actions, indicating where PHMSA is putting its enforcement efforts and the fines they are proposing for various types of violations.

In June 2023, PHMSA issued 4 NOAs, 7 NOPVs, and 4 WLs accompanied by $3,429,512 in proposed fines. Significant proposed fines were attributed to the following code sections:

  • $26,000 – 49 CFR 195.581(a) – Atmospheric Corrosion Control
  • $35,700 – 49 CFR 192.481(a) – Atmospheric Corrosion Control
  • $26,000 – 49 CFR 192.631(j)(1) – Control Room Management
  • $1,800 – 49 CFR 195.589(c) – Corrosion Control Records
  • $83,400 – 49 CFR 192.723(b)(1) – Leakage Surveys
  • $56,600 – 49 CFR 192.707(c) – Line Markers
  • $168,600 – 49 CFR 192.619(a)(1) – MAOP
  • $24,200 – 49 CFR 195.573(a)(1) – Monitoring External Corrosion
  • $70,700 – 49 CFR 195.573(e) – Monitoring External Corrosion
  • $50,200 – 49 CFR 195.505(b) – Operator Qualification
  • $75,200 – 49 CFR 192.453 – Operator Qualification
  • $62,900 – 49 CFR 195.428(a) – Overpressure Safety Devices
  • $72,600 – 49 CFR 192.739(a)(2) – Pressure Limiting/Regulation Stations
  • $218,647 – 49 CFR 192.605(a) – Procedure Manual
  • $2,186,465 – 49 CFR 192.605(b)(8) – Procedure Manual
  • $68,800 – 49 CFR 192.805(a) – Qualification Program
  • $78,500 – 49 CFR 192.805(b) – Qualification Program
  • $24,200 – 49 CFR 195.412(a) – ROW Inspections
  • $62,900 – 49 CFR 195.420(b) – Valve Maintenance
  • $36,100 – 49 CFR 192.747(a) – Valve Maintenance

Please note:

  1. Pipeline operators may disagree in whole or in part with each proposed violation cited by PHMSA. 
  2. Proposed Civil Penalties (PCP) may be reduced or eliminated before an enforcement action becomes final.
  3. A Corrective Action Order (CAO) usually addresses urgent situations arising out of an accident, spill, or other significant, immediate, or imminent safety or environmental concern.
  4. A Notice of Amendment (NOA) is frequently a result of a difference of opinion regarding written procedure requirements.
  5. A Notice of Proposed Safety Order (NOPSO) addresses pipeline integrity risks that may not constitute a hazardous facility requiring immediate corrective action (see Corrective Action Order described above),but do need to be addressed over time.
  6. A Notice of Probable Violation (NOPV) is not proof that a violation actually occurred.
  7. A Proposed Compliance Order (PCO) frequently documents actions the pipeline operator already planned to do.
  8. Warning Letter (WL) is an official notice by PHMSA that an operator needs to make improvements but that no further enforcement is proposed for those findings at this time.

RCP maintains a detailed database of all PHMSA enforcement actions dating back to 2007 and is routinely asked for data analysis of various enforcement actions. For more information on how RCP can assist with enforcement action data analysis services, contact Jessica Foley.

Need to respond to a PHMSA enforcement action?
Need to know if your enforcement action is an outlier, or par for the course? 

RCP maintains a detailed database of all PHMSA enforcement actions and their resolution which enables us to compare and contrast individual enforcement actions to nationwide actions and trends.  We can help put things into context to ensure an effective reply for each citation.  For more information on how RCP can assist with enforcement action data analysis services, contact Jessica Foley.

Q&A Section

Do you have questions? RCP’s SMEs have the answers. Information will be posted here for questions we often get from clients or discussions we have with regulators, interpretations and pending regulatory deadlines.

Q: Can a refined products pipeline be considered a liquid gathering line if it is 8” or less in diameter and starts at a refinery (which produced the products)?

A: A Liquid gathering line “transports petroleum from a production facility.” Petroleum is defined by PHMSA to include crude oil. Petroleum Product is also a term defined by PHMSA that includes “products obtained from distilling and processing of crude oil.” Per PHMSA’s definitions, a refined products pipeline carries “petroleum products”, not “petroleum.” Thus, refined products pipelines do not qualify as gathering pipelines, regardless of their diameter or where they begin.

Ask the Experts

Do you have a question for the experts at RCP?  Submit your question using this form. If your question is selected for a future newsletter, you will be eligible for a gift of your choice from RCP’s online Store.

Upcoming Deadlines:

  • The deadline to submit comments in response to PHMSA’s NPRM: Pipeline Safety: Gas Pipeline Leak Detection and Repair must be filed by August 16, 2023. The originally published closing date for comments was July 17, but PHMSA has extended the period an additional thirty days. Comments may be filed at Docket No. PHMSA-2021-0039.
  • And as a reminder, the “Stay of Enforcement” does not mean regulators don’t expect work toward getting compliance activities in place can be ignored.

If we can help, contact Jessica Foley.

Did you know?

DID YOU KNOW? Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) members work continuously to improve practices that minimize methane emissions from interstate natural gas transmission and storage operations in a prudent and environmentally responsible manner. INGAA’s 2021 Methane Emissions Commitments outline actions the membership take on a regular basis in order to continue to reduce methane emissions while maintaining pipeline integrity, safe operations, and minimizing adverse customer and community impacts. In addition to those commitments, several INGAA member companies participate in voluntary programs intended to reduce methane emissions, such as the ONE Future Coalition. These actions are all part of INGAA’s Vision Forward, a set of climate commitments intended to continue to address global climate change by advancing our commitment to minimize and reduce GHG emissions, including methane emissions.

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss our services with you.


Bill Byrd signature
W. R. (Bill) Byrd, PE
RCP Inc.