DOT Pipeline Compliance News

July 2003 Issue

In This Issue

DOT Pipeline Compliance Workshop – July 30-31, 2003 – Houston

RCP will conduct a 2 day workshop on DOT Pipeline Regulations on July 30th and 31st in Houston. Day 1 of this workshop will present an overview of all the current DOT regulations for pipeline operators. Day 2 will review recent regulatory initiatives such as pipeline integrity management, high consequence area (HCA) analysis, community education and liaison programs, operator qualification inspection protocols, and significant state regulatory proposals. Day 2 will also include a review of the new Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002, which includes several important self-implementing requirements that will affect pipeline operators. This workshop is suitable for personnel who need a general introduction to DOT pipeline regulatory requirements, or who need an update on recent and proposed DOT Pipeline regulatory initiatives. We have conducted this type of seminar several times, and have received excellent feedback each time. We expect this workshop to fill up rapidly. Early registration and group discounts are available. Additional information is available on our website here.

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Provisions for Alternative Mitigation Measures During Permitting Delays

The Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 amended the Federal pipeline safety laws to require that the Secretary of Transportation revise pipeline safety regulations, as needed, to allow operators to implement alternative mitigation measures if repairs to pipelines cannot be completed within specified time frames. As explained below, RSPA/OPS interprets existing pipeline repair requirements to allow for alternative mitigative measures while an operator has applied for and is waiting for a permit in order to effectuate a repair.

General pipeline facility repair requirements in 49 CFR 192.703 (for natural gas pipelines) and 49 CFR 195.401 (for hazardous liquid pipelines) require repair of conditions that are “unsafe” or “could adversely affect the safe operation of the pipeline system,” but do not specify a time period in which the required repairs must be made. These provisions, instead, require an operator to take actions necessary to assure the pipeline is safe and to take these actions “within a reasonable time.” Thus, for the non immediate hazard conditions, a reasonable repair time allows for an operator to obtain the Federal, state or local permits necessary to make a repair. RSPA/OPS expects an operator to exercise diligence in obtaining the necessary permits by being able to demonstrate that it has applied for the applicable permit and is taking all necessary steps for the permit to be processed and granted. In this interim period until the permit is granted, an operator is allowed to take alternative actions to mitigate the condition, as long as the actions are compatible with pipeline safety. The reasonable time provision does not apply to an immediate hazard condition. If circumstances associated with a particular pipeline problem are such that safety is immediately in jeopardy, then immediate action is appropriate and delay would be inconsistent with the protection of human health, public safety, and the environment.

The only current regulation that specifies time periods for pipeline repairs is the recently promulgated integrity management rule for hazardous liquid pipelines, 49 CFR 195.452. The remediation requirements of this regulation require an operator to remediate defects meeting certain criteria immediately or within 60 or 180 days, depending on the defect’s severity. This regulation further provides for an operator to take alternative mitigation measures if it cannot make the repair within the specified period for any reason, including being unable to obtain required permits.

RSPA/OPS discussed the need for additional requirements including alternative mitigative measures with its advisory committees, the Technical Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Standards Committee and the Technical Pipeline Safety Standards Committee, at a joint meeting held on March 26, 2003. The Committees agreed that the existing allowance for pressure reduction or case-by-case definition of alternative measures, via operator notification to RSPA/OPS, represents viable alternative measures, and that additional rulemaking to add alternatives was not needed.

Because RSPA/OPS interprets its pipeline repair requirements as allowing for interim alternative mitigation measures while an operator is diligently pursuing the granting of a permit, no further regulatory action is necessary. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Israni by phone at (202) 366-4571, by fax at (202) 366-4566, or by e-mail at

Subsea Pipeline Spill Model

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) has developed a Pipeline Oil Spill Volume Computer Model (POSVCM) to model worst case discharges from subsea pipelines. The program incorporates 3-dimensional seafloor bathymetry to better simulate plume dispersion. It can calculate the total mass of oil released, evolution of an oil/gas release over time, and the eventual surface thickness of any developing oil slick. RCP is using this model to calculate the worst-case discharge for pipeline spills on the offshore continental shelf (OCS). This information is incorporated into the spill plans we submit to the MMS. RCP prides itself in its ability to meet our clients’ varied needs, from modeling to planning and training. Please contact our Vice President of Business Development, Mr. Dan Shelledy, at, for more information.

Oberstar Asking for a List of Overdue Submittals to NPMS

Under the new pipeline safety act, operators of hazardous liquid and natural gas pipelines were required to submit mapping data to the Department of Transportation by June 17, 2003. Rep. James L. Oberstar (Minn.), the ranking Democratic on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, wants DOT to make sure they comply. Rep. Oberstar sent a letter to Sam G. Bonasso, Acting Administrator of the Research and Special Programs Administration, to ensure that all pipeline operators have submitted the required data. “The ability to locate our pipeline systems through a linked map system is a crucial tool for enhancing safety and security,” Oberstar wrote. Oberstar’s letter asks RSPA to provide a list of pipeline operators who failed to comply with the deadline and enforcement actions that have been taken to ensure compliance. The letter requests this information by July 10, 2003.

Sooooo – expect some heat from OPS if your company missed the reporting deadline.

Aaaaaand – don’t forget that we’d be glad to help you make your submittal to the NPMS, if you haven’t already done so.

RCP’s Fantastic 1-Page Version of New SPCC Regulation

The deadline for SPCC Plan revisions is fast approaching, February 17, 2006! RCP has developed a 1-page version (in tiny type) of the new SPCC regulations, to be revised as per the April 17, 2003 rule modification. To receive a complimentary copy along with a CD of valuable SPCC Reference Materials Click Here to request additional information.

EPA Issues Construction General Permit, Including Coverage for Pipeline Activities in Texas

EPA’s Construction General Permit was published in the Federal Register on July 01, 2003 and covers all construction activity on sites one acre or larger (or smaller sites that are part of a larger common plan of development) in states, territories, and Indian country where EPA is the permitting authority. The new permit implements Phase II of the NPDES Stormwater Regulations which contains new requirements for construction sites between one and five acres. (Construction sites that are five acres or larger were regulated previously under Phase I of the program and earlier construction general permits.) Under this Permit, construction site operators will need to develop and implement stormwater pollution prevention plans and file a “Notice of Intent” form at least 7 days prior to initiation of land-disturbing activities.

The new permit adds coverage for, among other things: “Discharges in the State of Texas that are not under the authority of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (formerly TNRCC), including activities associated with the exploration, development, or production of oil or gas or geothermal resources, including transportation of crude oil or natural gas by pipeline.”

For more information, see

Olympic Pipeline Sentencing Announced

U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein has sentenced two former managers of Olympic Pipe Line Co. to prison for crimes that contributed to a gasoline spill and fire in Bellingham, Washington, on June 10, 1999. The incident took three lives, and became a focal point for pipeline safety advocates. Frank Hopf Jr., VP of Olympic at the time of the accident, was sentenced to six months behind bars. He pleaded guilty to a felony count of failing to train workers as mandated by the federal pipeline-safety act. Ronald Brentson, who supervised the pipeline’s control center, was sentenced to 30 days in prison and 30 days home detention for the same offense. Kevin Dyvig, a control-center operator, was sentenced to one year of probation on a misdemeanor charge for negligent discharge of fuel into a creek. RCP has prepared a page containing a summary of the settlements and plea bargains associated with this incident which can be downloaded from RCP’s website here through the DOT Gateway.

Editor’s note: although almost all the discussion concerning the Olympic accident concerns Olympic’s failure to excavate an anomaly discovered during a pig run (which ultimately failed), the criminal conviction was related to Olympic’s training program. According to the NTSB’s report for this accident, which can be downloaded from RCP’s website here through the Pipeline Integrity Management Gateway, Olympic’s technician performed a proper evaluation of this anomaly, and was technically correct when he decided not to excavate this location (although NTSB’s report goes through some torturous logic to try to explain why it should have been excavated anyway). Thus, the prosecutors were unable to convict anyone concerning their work on the pipeline inspection and follow up.

Food for thought: Is your smart pig data evaluation and follow-up process well documented? Do you have systems in place to ensure that ALL significant anomalies are properly evaluated, and that the evaluation is documented and approved? Can you readily access this information years later if necessary? We would be glad to discuss methods to improve your processes and procedures in this area.

Integrity Management Plan Up-to-Date?

RCP has the tools and expertise to develop comprehensive Integrity Management Plans for both liquid and gas pipelines. Click Here if you would like information on RCP’s Integrity Management Services and receive a copy of our FREE Integrity Management CD.

Public Education – Future Activities

As mentioned in our January, 2003 newsletter, the Pipeline Safety Act of 2002 requires each owner or operator of a gas or hazardous liquid pipeline facility, by December 17, 2003, to:

“…review its existing public education program for effectiveness and modify the program as necessary. The completed program shall include activities to advise affected municipalities, school districts, businesses, and residents of pipeline facility locations. The completed program shall be submitted to the Secretary or, in the case of an intrastate pipeline facility operator, the appropriate State agency, and shall be periodically reviewed by the Secretary or, in the case of an intrastate pipeline facility operator, the appropriate State agency. ”

Concurrent with this requirement, API is developing RP 1162 – Public Awareness Programs for Pipeline Operators. This RP will address the items described in the law, and will hopefully be incorporated by reference into the DOT regulations at 49 CFR 192 and 195. Information about RP 1162 is available at The Office of Pipeline Safety and the American Gas Association are planning two workshops concerning the law and implementation of RP 1162. They are tentatively scheduled for September 4 and 5 in Houston, TX, and September 16 and 17 in Baltimore, MD. The workshops will also be accessible via the internet.

Technical Pipeline Safety Standards Committee Meeting Transcripts

The full transcripts of the TPSS Committee meetings (the OPS natural gas advisory committee) on May 28-30 concerning the natural gas integrity management program are now available. The transcripts include a concise introduction describing the issues to be discussed at the meeting (a good idea for meetings in industry, as well!). The transcripts are rather like reading a deposition, so don’t attempt it if you are sleep deprived. If, however, you want a good idea of what to expect in the upcoming gas pipeline integrity management rule, the transcripts are very instructive. They can be found at:

Interested in Web-Based Compliance Management Systems?

RCP has the latest technology to help manage all of your permits, inspections, procedures, and data requirements and neatly organize them into one overall compliance assurance system. This includes regulatory tasking, data management, and exception reporting. Because it is web-based, there are no IT issues to struggle through to get started. An institutional memory is created of the compliance history and ongoing compliance requirements, despite operator or personnel turnover.  Click Here

OQ2 and Future OQ Rulemaking

The OQ2 working group has developed audit protocols that address most issues that industry and agency personnel had with the current OQ rule. The protocols can be downloaded from RCP’s website here through the DOT Gateway. There are a couple of issues (training requirements under OQ, and OQ requalification intervals) that cannot be addressed to NTSB’s satisfaction under the current rule. To resolve these remaining issues, OPS intends to issue an Amended Final Rule sometime in August or September. The amended rule should go final by November, which will allow the NTSB to close out it’s recommendations concerning these issues as “satisfactory”. Industry personnel are working closely with agency personnel on the contents of the Amended Final Rule, which should minimize the need for comments or revisions during the rulemaking process.

Meanwhile, ASME is working on a national consensus standard for OQ, which should be finalized in 2004. This standard, once finalized, will likely be incorporated into the OQ rule.

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