DOT Pipeline Compliance News

October 2020 Issue

In This Issue

PHMSA ADB-2020-01 Pipeline Safety: Meters and Regulators Inside Buildings

[Docket No. PHMSA-2020-0115]

PHMSA issued an advisory bulletin to alert owners and operators of natural gas distribution pipelines to the consequences of failures of meters and regulators inside buildings. PHMSA is also reminding operators of existing Federal regulations covering the installation and maintenance of meter and regulators inside buildings, including the integrity management regulations for distribution systems to reduce the risks associated with failures of meter and regulators inside buildings installations.

For a copy of Advisory Bulletin ADB-2020-01, contact Jessica Foley.

PHMSA ADB-2020-02 Overpressure Protection on Low-Pressure Natural Gas Distribution System

[Docket No. PHMSA-2020-0025]

PHMSA issued an advisory bulletin to remind owners and operators of natural gas distribution pipelines of the possibility of failure due to an over-pressurization on low-pressure distribution systems. PHMSA also reminds pipeline operators of their obligations to comply with the gas DIMP regulations at 49 CFR Part 192, Subpart P. 

PHMSA encourages operators to review the NTSB’s Pipeline Accident Report concerning Columbia Gas of Massachusetts’ over-pressurization event in the Merrimack Valley on September 13, 2018. It may be instructive regarding a host of potential safety problems that operators of low-pressure natural gas distribution systems may need to address. A copy of NTSB’s accident report is contained within Docket No. PHMSA–2020–0025 for this advisory bulletin.

For a copy of PHMSA’s ADAB-2020-02, contact Jessica Foley.

Mega Rule FAQs

[Docket Number PHMSA-2019-0225]

On September 15, 2020, PHMSA posted Batch 1 FAQs on the Gas Transmission Final Rule (aka Mega Rule) to assist gas transmission pipeline operators in complying with the pipeline safety regulations in 49 CFR Parts 191 and 192. The FAQs include PHMSA’s responses to public comments and address a number of issues including compliance deadlines, reporting requirements, moderate consequence areas, spike hydrostatic testing, material verification, MAOP establishment and reconfirmation, non-HCA assessments, and more.

If all of these FAQs are too overwhelming for you Really Cool People, it’s not too late to sign up for RCP’s Virtual Mega-Rule Workshop.

PHMSA Announces Nearly $8 Million in Pipeline Safety R&D Awards

PHMSA announced an award package totaling $7,810,213. The awards will fund 10 pipeline safety research and development (R&D) projects that address pipeline safety priorities including Damage/Threat Prevention, Leak Detection, Anomaly Detection/Characterization, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), and Improved Materials. Project awardees will contribute an additional $4,082,308 in cost-share funds.

A Merit Review Panel consisting of 28 members from PHMSA, FERC and the pipeline and LNG industries reviewed 21 project applications. PHMSA solicited proposals for a total of 13 research topics. Read the complete list of awarded projects here. For more information on PHMSA pipeline R&D projects, read here.

California Adopts New Article 7 for Risk Analysis and Best Available Technology for Minimizing Releases from Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

California’s Office of the State Fire Marshal has adopted requirements that govern the requirements for hazardous liquid pipeline construction and operation near environmentally and ecologically sensitive areas in the Coastal Zone. Hazardous liquid pipeline operators are required to conduct and submit a Risk Analysis with associated Implementation Plans to the State Fire Marshal for detecting and minimizing releases. The Office of the State Fire Marshal will determine what will be best available technology for detection and for minimizing releases from these pipelines.

Enforcement of the pipeline Risk Analysis submittals for new pipelines begins May 1, 2021. Existing Pipelines in the Coastal Zone subject to the requirement must have the risk analysis and an implementation plan to retrofit the pipeline with the best available technology by October 1, 2021, and the implementation plan completed by April 1, 2023.

Chapter 14. Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety, Article 7 can be found on the California Code of Regulations webpage.

Corps of Engineers NOPR to Reissue Nationwide Permits 2 Years Ahead of Schedule

[Docket No. COE-2020-0002]

On September 15, 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) to replace the 2017 Nationwide Permits (NWPs) by the end of 2020. NWPs provide a streamlined process for the Corps to authorize work in streams, wetlands, lakes, and tidal waters under Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act.

The Corps is proposing to reissue its existing NWPs and associated general conditions and definitions, with some modifications. They are also proposing to issue five new NWPs.

They are proposing to divide the current NWP 12, that authorizes utility line activities, into three separate NWPs that address the differences in how different linear projects are constructed, the substances they convey, and the different standards and best management practices that help ensure those NWPs authorize only those activities that have no more than minimal adverse environmental effects. Specifically, the Corps is proposing to modify the current utility line NWP 12 to authorize only oil and natural gas pipeline activities.

The Corps is requesting comment on all aspects of these proposed nationwide permits. Submit comments on or before November 16, 2020 on the Federal eRulemaking Portal, and include the Docket Number COE-2020-0002.

For a copy of the Corps NOPR, contact Jessica Foley.

Michigan Gas Regulation Changes

The Michigan Public Service Commission has made a number of minor changes to its regulations in Chapter 460, Technical Standards for Gas Service.  It also added a new section regarding security reporting, a new section on statistical quality sampling program for diaphragm-type meters, and incorporated a number of industry standards. 

Washington State’s Proposed New Reporting Requirements for Crude Oil Movement by Rail and Pipeline

[Chapter 173-185 WAC]

The Washington State Department of Ecology proposed new reporting requirements for pipeline and rail transport of crude oil. These new requirements include reporting the gravity, vapor pressure and the type of crude oil. The new information will be reported to the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC). Three Public Hearings are scheduled  through online Webinars :

  • October 7, 2020 – 1 p.m.
  • October 13, 2020 – 10 a.m.
  • October 20, 2020 – 6 p.m.

The deadline for comments is November 1, 2020.  More information on this rule making can be found on the Washington State Department of Ecology webpage.

Washington State New Reporting Requirements for Gas Pipelines

[RCW 81.88.160]

Starting March 15, 2021, gas pipeline operators will be required to file an annual report with Washington’s State Department of Ecology. The reporting requirements include information about the number and size of gas leaks, pipeline repair activities, and the scheduling of future pipeline repairs. The information reported will be included in the estimated volume of the State’s greenhouse gas emissions.

2020 International Pipeline Conference Wrap Up

Your humble newsletter editor is honored to have served as the chair of the 2020 International Pipeline Conference (and relieved that it is all over!). The conference was held virtually for the first time but still included more than 200 peer-reviewed technical papers on cutting-edge energy pipeline research from throughout the world. Recorded presentations for these papers, as well as the technical papers themselves, will be available to registrants through Oct 30, 2020. A highlights video of the conference featuring many of the presenters and key participants is available here.

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


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