DOT Pipeline Compliance News

June 2021 Issue

In This Issue

PHMSA Advisory Bulletin: Eliminating Hazardous Leaks and Minimizing Releases of Natural Gas from Pipeline Facilities

PHMSA has issued a new Advisory Bulletin (ADB 2021-01) reminding operators of the statutory mandate from the PIPES Act of 2020, which contains self-executing provisions requiring pipeline facility operators to update their inspection and maintenance plans to address the elimination of hazardous leaks and minimization of releases of natural gas (including, and not limited to, intentional venting during normal operations) from their systems before December 27, 2021. 

PHMSA expects that operators will comply with the inspection and maintenance plan revisions required in the PIPES Act of 2020 by revising their O&M plans to address the elimination of hazardous leaks and minimize releases of natural gas from pipeline facilities. The plans must also address the replacement or remediation of pipelines that are known to leak due to their material (including cast iron, unprotected steel, wrought iron, and historic plastics with known issues), design, or past O&M history.

The ADB also reminds operators of the mandate that PHMSA and certified state agencies are required to inspect operators’ revised O&M plans in calendar year 2022. During these inspections, PHMSA, or the relevant state agency, is required to evaluate whether the plans adequately address items listed in section 114 of the PIPES Act of 2020:

  • O&M plans must be detailed to address the elimination of hazardous leaks and minimization of releases of natural gas from the operators’ pipeline facilities; meaning pipeline operators must update their plans to minimize, among other things, fugitive emissions and vented emissions from pipeline facilities. PHMSA and state inspections, therefore, will evaluate the steps taken to prevent and mitigate both unintentional, fugitive emissions as well as intentional, vented emissions. Fugitive emissions include any unintentional leaks from equipment such as pipelines, flanges, valves, meter sets, or other equipment. Vented emissions include any release of natural gas to the atmosphere due to equipment design or operations and maintenance procedures. Common sources of vented emissions include pneumatic device bleeds, blowdowns, incomplete combustion, or overpressure protection venting (e.g., relief valves).
  • O&M plans must address the replacement or remediation of pipelines that are known to leak based on the material (including cast iron, unprotected steel, wrought iron, and historic plastics with known issues), design, or past operating and maintenance history of the pipeline. PHMSA and state inspections will include an evaluation of how the material present in the pipeline system, design of the system, as well as the past O&M history of the system, contribute to the leaks that occur on the system. PHMSA and states will evaluate whether the plans adequately address reducing leaks on operators’ pipeline systems due to the aforementioned factors.
  • Operators must carry out a current, written O&M plan to address public safety and the protection of the environment. In addition to the new statutory requirement that PHMSA and state inspections consider the extent to which the plans will contribute to the elimination of hazardous leaks and minimizing releases of natural gas from pipeline facilities, PHMSA’s inspections will continue to include an evaluation of the extent to which the plans contribute to both public safety and the protection of the environment.

For a copy of this Advisory Bulletin or to learn how TaskOp is now being developed to assist pipeline operators track, calculate and report methane emissions, contact Jessica Foley.

PHMSA Max Civil Penalty Adjustment Final Rule

[RIN 2105-AE99]

DOT issued a final rule increasing the maximum civil penalties that PHMSA may assess for violations of the federal Pipeline Safety Laws (49 CFR Part 190 – Pipeline Safety Enforcement and Regulatory Procedures) to reflect the 2021 inflation adjustment. Effective May 3, the maximum civil penalty for each pipeline safety violation increased from $222,504 to $225,134 per violation per day, and the maximum penalty for a related series of pipeline safety violations increased from $2,225,034 to $2,251,334. The maximum additional penalty for LNG pipeline safety violations increased from $81,284 to $82,245. These increased penalties apply only to violations occurring after the effective date.

For a copy of the Federal Register Notice that includes all civil penalty adjustments from DOT, contact Jessica Foley.

On May 19, 2021, PHMSA will suspend its March 20, 2020 Stay of Enforcement and Notice of Enforcement Discretion as of May 26, 2021. The March 20, 2020 Stay laid out a course of notification that pipeline operators and natural gas storage operators could use to avoid enforcement due to ‘…limited personnel resources and the ongoing need to meet operational and maintenance needs…’. The Stay covered Operator Qualification programs, Control Room Management Programs and Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs.

PHMSA stated in its May 19 Notice that the number of operators using the Stay had steadily declined, and the lifting of certain COVID-19 restrictions and availability of COVID-19 vaccines has made the Stay no longer applicable.

However, the Stay of Enforcement for the Substance Abuse Professional’s face-to-face meeting to review the test results with the employee is still active.

PHMSA Notice Pipeline Safety Information Collection Activities

[Docket No. PHMSA-2019-0172]

PHMSA will modify the instructions for Part G, Part F, and Part L to clarify that operators are only required to report baseline and reassessment data for moderate consequence area (MCA) segments subject to 49 CFR 192.710.

PHMSA is withdrawing its proposal to move reporting of relief valve & ESD events from the incident form to the annual form at this time because PHMSA would not be able to collect the amount of gas released from these events after making the change from the incident to the annual reports. PHMSA intends to address this issue in a future information collection change.

PHMSA will consider adding a section reporting excavation damages to the Annual Report for Natural and Other Gas Transmission and Gathering Pipeline Systems. And that, for consistency, the added section should reflect the ‘‘causes’’ from the existing Section D of the Gas Distribution Annual Report Form. The addition would include excavation damage, root cause, and the total number of one-call ticket requests by state. PHMSA intends to address this issue in a future information collection change.

Comments must be submitted on or before June 14, 2021, and can be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal.

TSA Security Directive “Enhancing Pipeline Cybersecurity”

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued a Security Directive (2021-01), effective May 28, 2021, titled Enhancing Pipeline Cybersecurity. This Directive was sent to the specific pipeline operators who were identified by the TSA as operating critical pipeline systems or facilities. The Directive has three requirements:

  • Report cybersecurity incidents to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency within 12 hours of discovery of a cybersecurity incident.
  • Designate a Cybersecurity Coordinator and at least one alternate for 24/7 coverage.
  • Review and use the TSA’s pipeline security recommendations (Section 7 of the 2018 Pipeline Security Guidelines (with Change 1 (April 2021)) to assess cyber risk and develop action plans to address any gaps.

Since all pipeline operators are not included in this Directive, and in light of recent events, all pipeline operators should review their own cybersecurity plans and assess the plans against the guidelines in 2018 Pipeline Security Guidelines (with Change 1 (April 2021) and take action as necessary to address vulnerability gaps. TSA highlighted that the plans, assessments and action plans be considered security sensitive information and managed per the requirements of 49 CFR 1520 – Protection of Sensitive Security Information.

For a copy of the directive, contact Jessica Foley.

TSA Pipeline Security Guideline

[March 2018 Edition with Change 1 (April 2021)]

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has updated its Pipeline Security Guidelines manual. This update was published in April 2021. The Criticality Section has been replaced in the new manual. Where the old manual treated all pipelines equally, the new manual breaks down the guidance into gas distribution, gas transmission and hazardous liquid transmission. TSA recommends that pipeline operators develop a written policy and procedure for identifying the critical parts of their pipeline systems. The new policy and procedure should be one more part of the pipeline company’s enterprise risk management process. The new Criticality Section has detailed suggestions for assisting pipeline operators in what should be included in the procedure.

TSA recommends that the process for identifying security risks be done for a single point failure with the assumption that third-party aid will not be available. Then, evaluate the consequences to the pipeline’s customers, disruption to downstream utilities, impact to commercial transport (air and ground), impact to critical infrastructure such as hospitals, and impact to national defense installations and to the Defense Industrial Base. The TSA added a statement to the new manual that this risk analysis is to be treated as sensitive security information with all the necessary access control requirements. The TSA also stated they may want to see the policy and procedure as well as the analysis.

The TSA has also announced that it will begin the rulemaking process for cybersecurity for pipeline operators. At a minimum, the suggested regulations will include reporting ransomware attacks to the TSA.

For a copy of the Pipeline Security Guidelines manual, click here.

Indiana Pipeline Safety Regulation Amendments

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission provided notice that they intend to amend pipeline safety regulations, including the following items.

  • Amends 170 IAC 5-3-0.5, 70 IAC 5-3-0.6, 170 IAC 5-3-1, 170 IAC 5-3-2, 170 IAC 5-3-3, 170 IAC 5-3-4, and 170 IAC 5-3-5 to make various updates, incorporate new federal regulations through July 1, 2021.
  • Specify application of federal regulations to farm taps.
  • Add requirements applicable to flexible risers.
  • Require pressure relief on low pressure stations.
  • Require filing of uprate plans with the Pipeline Safety Division.
  • Adds 170 IAC 5-3-2.1, 170 IAC 5-3-2.2, 170 IAC 5-3-2.3, 170 IAC 5-3-2.4, 170 IAC 5-3-2.5, 170 IAC 5-3-2.6, and 170 IAC 5-3-4.1 to require system maps, records for pre-tested pipe, and records of instrument calibration; specify the establishment of MAOP on distribution systems; clarify this rule’s application to farm taps; require specified information in construction packets, and to provide guidelines as to enforcement of violations.

For more information about these changes or to inquire how RCP could assist to prepare for implementation of regulatory programs to address these amendments, contact Jessica Foley.

Dura-Line Pauses NGD Polyethylene Pipe Orders

On April 20, 2021, Dura-Line announced a pause in the shipping and sale for any small diameter natural gas distribution polyethylene pipe as they look into inconsistencies in quality. The specific products affected are NGD pipe of 1.5-inch diameter or smaller (specifically, the NGD pipe sizes of 1/2, 3/4, 1, 1 1/4, and 1 1/2 inch diameter). Production and sales of all other Dura-Line pipe – including larger diameter NGD pipe and all of Dura-Line’s conduit products – will continue as usual.

Gas distribution system integrity requires pipe of uncompromising quality, and Dura-Line takes its role as a provider of pipe very seriously. Accordingly, the company is pausing the shipping and sale of small diameter natural gas distribution (NGD) polyethylene pipe as they look into why some pipe sections had inconsistent wall thickness, potentially affecting the expected useful life of 50 years.

At this time, it is unknown how long this pause will last. Should you have questions, please contact your NGD representative or email

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


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