DOT Pipeline Compliance News

February 2021 Issue

In This Issue

PHMSA Civil Penalty Update

PHMSA has updated §190.223 Maximum penalties going forward in accordance with the following table.

DescriptionCitationExisting penaltyNew penalty (existing penalty × 1.01764)
Maximum penalty for each pipeline safety violation49 U.S.C. 60122(a)(1)218,647222,504
Maximum penalty for a related series of pipeline safety violations49 U.S.C. 60122(a)(1)2,186,4652,225,034
Maximum additional penalty for each liquefied natural gas pipeline facility violation49 U.S.C. 60122(a)(2)79,87581,284
Maximum penalty for discrimination against employees providing pipeline safety information49 U.S.C. 60122(a)(3)1,2701,292

PHMSA Notice Operator Qualification FAQs

[Docket No. PHMSA-2020-0086]

PHMSA issued a Notice and Request for Comments regarding a revised set of operator qualification (OQ) frequently asked questions (FAQs) that will replace its current FAQs developed in 2003. The proposed revisions will provide greater clarity regarding PHMSA’s OQ regulations, and address the implementation of operator qualification regulations for gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. The revised FAQs would replace current FAQs that are outdated or no longer relevant, and will ensure that each FAQ is tied to a specific regulatory requirement.

Comments on the proposed revised FAQs are due February 16, 2021, and can be submitted via the E-Gov Website. Identify Docket No. PHMSA–2020–0086 at the beginning of your comments.

For a copy of PHMSA’s Notice regarding the revised FAQs, contact Jessica Foley.

Update to Mississippi Damage Prevention Regulations

The State of Mississippi has modified its damage prevention regulations to require the use of their “Positive Response Information System” (PRIS), to communicate the status and plans for pipeline marking.  Before this change, the use of PRIS was optional for facility owners.  PRIS is an automated information system operated and maintained by Mississippi 811, that allows excavators, locators, facility owners or operators, and other affected parties to enter and/or determine the status of a locate request.  Note that this includes positive response, where a facility owner must enter information into PRIS after a One Call notification, even if they have no facilities in the area and do not plan to place marks.  

TRRC 2021 Pipeline Mileage Fees

The Texas Railroad Commission (TRRC) is reminding pipeline operators that their 2021 pipeline mileage fees are due April 1, 2021. Operators will use the number of miles they have permitted as of December 31, 2020, to calculate their 2021 pipeline mileage fee. The deadline for payment without incurring late penalties is April 1. This year’s mileage charts recorded by the TRRC and other information on the fees can be found by clicking here. All mileage fees are required to be paid through the Pipeline Online Permitting System (POPS). View POPS Instructions: POPS User Guide (

For additional information, contact the TRRC Pipeline Safety at or 512-463-6802.

PHMSA Announces Availability of More Than $17 Million for Hazardous Materials and Pipeline Safety Efforts

PHMSA announced that it will accept applications for up to $17 million in grants for safety awareness, training, research, and other activities that will help communities avert or respond to hazardous materials-related transportation incidents.

Each year, PHMSA offers grants to state, tribal, non-profit, and community-based organizations through its safety programs for the nation’s pipeline network and hazardous materials transportation system.  Grant recipients use the funds to train first responders, educate the public on local safety initiatives, develop and commercialize new technologies, or participate in regulatory oversight activities.

Of the $17 million in total funding opportunities, PHMSA is offering up to:

  • $1.5 million through its Technical Assistance Grant program for projects that will foster open communication and address pipeline safety and environmental issues;
  • $1.25 million through its Community Safety Grant program for projects that can supply the best training and outreach activities to help local communities prepare for hazardous materials accidents and incidents involving the transportation of Class 3 flammable liquids;
  • $2.93 million in Pipeline Safety One-Call and State Damage Prevention grants aimed at reducing damage to underground pipelines;
  • $2 million in Pipeline Safety Competitive Academic Agreement Program awards for research and technologies that could improve pipeline transportation safety;
  • $1 million in Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Tribal grants to increase their effectiveness in safely and efficiently handling hazardous materials transportation accidents and incidents; and
  • $8.1 million in grants for Hazardous Materials Instructor Training, Supplemental Public-Sector Training, Assistance for Local Emergency Responder Training, and Community Safety for training and outreach programs that help emergency responders and local communities prepare for and respond to transportation emergencies involving hazardous materials.

The number of grant recipients receiving awards will depend on the grant program, as well as the quality and number of applications received, the dollar amounts requested, and funding availability.  Grant recipients are required to provide a report to PHMSA within one year chronicling completion of the work, as outlined in their grant agreement. 

To obtain full eligibility requirements and application instructions, please read each official notice of funding opportunity on  Applicants can also contact the appropriate agency representative identified in the respective notice of funding opportunity. 

Details about prior grant awards and related projects can be found on PHMSA’s grant webpage.

New PHMSA Deputy Administrator

On February 1, 2021, the Biden Administration named Tristan Brown as the new deputy administrator for PHMSA (replacing Drue Pierce).  He is also temporarily serving as acting administrator for PHMSA (replacing Skip Elliot).  Mr. Brown previously served in the offices of Senator Gary Peters and Senator Amy Klobuchar where he worked on issues related to transportation, energy, and the environment. From 2016-2017, he served as Deputy Associate Administrator for Congressional Affairs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As an attorney in private practice, Brown focused on matters related to the transportation and public utility sectors.

For those rusty on their government titles, Alan Mayberry is still Associate Administrator for the Office of Pipeline Safety.  Alan reports up the chain of command to Tristan, who eventually reports to the new Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg. 

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


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