DOT Pipeline Compliance News

December 2022 Issue

In This Issue

PHMSA Public Meeting Addressing Multiple Pipeline Safety Topics

December 13-15, 2022 | Houston, Texas

PHMSA is holding an informational public meeting to address multiple safety topics including progress on reduction of methane emissions, energy transformation, safety bulletins, and National Transportation Safety Board recommendations.

The informational public meeting will be held on December 13-15, 2022, from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the Westin Galleria, 5060 West Alabama Street, Houston, Texas. Members of the public who wish to attend this meeting are asked to register no later than December 7, 2022.

PHMSA will also webcast this meeting. The agenda and instructions on how to attend are available on the PHMSA meeting website.

This is a great opportunity for all of you Really Cool People in the Houston area to participate in person!

PHMSA’s Response to AGA’s RIN 2 Petition

PHMSA has formally responded to AGA’s Petition for Reconsideration regarding the Transmission Mega Rule RIN 2. On September 23, 2022, the American Gas Association (AGA) submitted a letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) petitioning the agency for reconsideration of the final rule titled “Pipeline Safety: Safety of Gas Transmission Pipelines: Repair Criteria, Integrity Management Improvements, Cathodic Protection, Management of Change, and Other Related Amendments” that was published on August 24, 2022.  In its petition, AGA requested that PHMSA address issues associated with §192.3, definitions, and enforcement discretion.

AGA requested a revision of the updated definition of “transmission line” with the phrase “connected series of pipelines” being removed. AGA stated that this language could result in confusion within the industry regarding whether a pipeline is a transmission line or not given interconnections between gas transmission lines and other types of gas pipelines, such as distribution pipelines. PHMSA agreed with AGA and will issue guidance clarifying its understanding of the meaning of “connected series of pipelines” within the regulatory definition of “transmission line” at 49 CFR 192.3.

AGA also requested clarification that the § 192.3 regulatory definitions of “In-line inspection” (“ILI”) as used within §192.710(a)(2) and §192.624(a)(2)(iii) encompasses free-swimming tools. The §192.3 definitions of ILI in the Final Rule was intended to clarify that operators are free to use tethered and self-propelled tools in addition to “free-swimming” or “piggable” ILI tools. The Final Rule was not intended to modify the meaning of a piggable (i.e., free-swimming) ILI tool for moderate consequence areas established in an earlier rulemaking referenced. PHMSA agreed with AGA and will issue guidance clarifying that the regulatory definition of “In-line inspection” at § 192.3 can include free-swimming tools.

As the effective date of the final rule is May 24, 2023, only nine months after the publication of the Final Rule, AGA requested an extension of the effective date to 18 months after publication in the Federal Register, which would extend the effective date to late February 2024. PHMSA partially granted AGA’s request by exercising enforcement discretion through a 9-month extension for pipe existing at the time of the Final Rule’s publication (August 24, 2022). This enforcement discretion does not apply to the timelines provided in the Final Rule with independent timelines such as §192.917(b), Data gathering, and integration.

RCP recommends that gas pipeline operators begin analyzing the impacts of this rulemaking and initiate procedural updates as soon as practicable.  For more information about how RCP is helping operators comply with the most recent final rules and how we might be able to help you, contact Jessica Foley.

Temporary Repair and Permanent Repair Frequently Asked Questions

On November 2, 2022, PHMSA issued new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) as guidance to pipeline operators to help them understand how to comply with existing temporary repair and permanent repair regulations.  Although FAQs are not enforceable, an operator who is able to demonstrate compliance with the FAQs is likely to be able to demonstrate compliance with the relevant regulations. Per PHMSA, if a different course of action is taken by a pipeline operator, the operator must be able to demonstrate that their conduct is in accordance with the regulations.

PHMSA responses were given to the following Questions.  For a copy of the FAQs, contact Jessica Foley.

  • Q1. When must operators make permanent repairs on gas pipelines?
    • A1. Permanent repairs to onshore gas gathering and transmission pipelines in high consequence areas
    • A2. Repairs to onshore gas transmission pipelines not in an HCA, and which do not operate under an alternative maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP)
  • Q2. When must an operator make an immediate temporary repair on a gas pipeline?
  • Q3. How is a temporary repair different from a permanent repair for gas pipelines?
  • Q4. How is a temporary repair different from a permanent repair for hazardous liquid pipelines?
  • Q5. What steps must an operator take when implementing a temporary or permanent repair of a gas or hazardous liquid pipeline?

GAO Recommendations for Improving PHMSA’s Enforcement Transparency Website

As you are aware, PHMSA inspects interstate natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines, investigates accidents, and enforces laws and regulations. PHMSA puts information about its enforcement activities on its public Enforcement Transparency website. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report and 3 recommendations related to improving the PHMSA Enforcement Transparency website.

Recommendation #1: Update PHMSA’s Enforcement Transparency website to provide complete, machine-readable data that can be downloaded in bulk and in selected subsets.

Recommendation #2:  Update PHMSA’s enforcement data to be interoperable with other relevant datasets, such as PHMSA’s accident-incident dataset (e.g., by adding a unique identifier variable.)

Recommendation #3:  Update PHMSA’s Enforcement Transparency website to provide a search function that allows users to find relevant information, which could include the ability to search by the regulation violated.

The full report and recommendations can be found on the GAO website.

FERC LNG Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

[Docket No. RM22-8-000]

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proposes to revise its regulations under 18 CFR parts 153 and 380 governing liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities subject to sections 3 and 7 of the Natural Gas Act by removing outdated references for seismic hazard evaluations and seismic design criteria for LNG facilities. In their place, FERC proposes to codify its existing practice of evaluating seismic and other natural hazards and design criteria for LNG facilities under its jurisdiction. These revisions are intended to reduce confusion about applicable technical requirements and clarify the information required in applications filed with FERC to ensure the public is protected from potential catastrophic impacts caused by natural hazards.

Comments on this notice of proposed rulemaking are due January 27, 2023. Submit comments via electronic filing and include the docket number.

For a copy of FERC’s proposed rulemaking, contact Jessica Foley.

Did you know?

The ability of the gas system to meet seasonal and peak day demands and to reliably deliver natural gas, even during high-impact events, represents an important and valuable resource that must be considered when designing future energy systems and building pathways to a low-carbon future. “Enhancing and Maintaining Gas and Energy System Resiliency”, a study by the American Gas Foundation, provides guidance, including recommendations for regulations at the federal level and supportive policies in the state and local arenas that will help ensure that as more citizens rely on gas-powered electricity to meet their energy needs during peak demand periods and high-impact events, they have access to the energy they need when they need it most.

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 October 2022, PHMSA issued 1 WL, 1 NOA, and 3 NOPVs accompanied by $1,216,602 in proposed fines. Significant proposed fines were attributed to the following code sections:

  • $675,402 – 49 CFR 195.402(a) – Procedure Manuals
  • $22,800 – 49 CFR 195.573(e) – External Corrosion Control
  • $518,400 – 49 CFR 192.579(a) – Mitigating Internal Corrosion

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.

Save The Planet – Drink Jack Daniels!

[as if we needed one more reason]

On October 17, 2022, TC Energy Corporation announced a $29.3 million investment in a renewable natural gas (RNG) production facility near the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, TN. Owned by Lynchburg Renewable Fuels LLC, the facility will produce RNG with a carbon intensity score that is 50 per cent lower than traditional natural gas, saving up to 16,000 tons of CO2e/ year.

The full news release can be found on the TC Energy website.

Editor’s note:  please save the planet responsibly. 

Season’s Greetings from RCP!
RCP would like to thank our valued clients for the opportunities you have given us to serve as your Professional Engineers, Regulatory Experts, and Trusted Partners. We look forward to working with you on even more projects in the years ahead. Best wishes for the holiday season and the New Year, from your friends at RCP.


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