DOT Pipeline Compliance News

September 2023 Issue

In This Issue


PHMSA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – Gas Distribution

[Docket No. PHMSA-2021-0046]

On September 7th, PHMSA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), Safety of Gas Distribution Pipelines and Other Pipeline Safety Initiatives, was published in the Federal Register.  This NPRM would require gas distribution operators to update their distribution integrity management programs (DIMP), emergency response plans, operations and maintenance manuals, and other safety practices. This NPRM implements congressional mandates from the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act and an NTSB recommendation directed toward preventing catastrophic incidents resulting from over pressurization of low-pressure gas distribution systems, similar to what occurred on a gas distribution system in Merrimack Valley, MA on September 13, 2018. The 59-page rulemaking is quite extensive, and includes (among other requirements):

  • Improving construction procedures designed to minimize the risk of incidents caused by system over-pressurizations.
  • Updating Operator’s DIMP plans to consider and prepare for the threat of over-pressurization, specifically over-pressurization on low pressure systems.
  • Requiring new regulator stations to be designed with secondary pressure relief valves and remote gas monitoring, to better prepare gas distribution systems to avoid over pressurizations, and limit damage during incidents.
  • Strengthening emergency response plans for gas pipeline emergencies, including requirements for operators to contact local emergency first responders / public officials for incidents involving fire/explosion/fatality/significant interruption and keep customers and the affected public informed of what to do in the event of an emergency and post incident.
  • DIMP plans to be required to assess risk of cast iron, bare steel, unprotected steel, wrought iron, and historic plastics with known issues and low-pressure distribution systems, as well as the possibility of future accidents, to better account for high-consequence but low-probability events.
  • DIMP plans to consider factors that increase the likelihood of failure such as age, increase the overall risk (including factors that simultaneously increase the likelihood and consequence of failure), and limit the effectiveness of leak management programs.
  • Operators to consider and take appropriate action to address the impacts of extreme weather as a threat, regardless of whether they had experienced such events in their pipelines’ history, while still recognizing regional differences.
  • DIMP plans to assess risk to low-pressure gas burning equipment.
  • Revise O&M manual / Emergency plans to include procedures for responding to overpressure indications.
  • MOC procedure to account for significant changes to distribution system, and to ensure SME review/approval of relevant construction plans.
  • Traceable/Verifiable/Complete records for gas distribution facilities “critical to ensure proper pressure controls.”
  • Monitoring for overpressure by OQ-qualified person during certain construction projects.
  • Assess risk of (and eliminate) common mode of failure at district regulator stations.
  • Construction inspection requirement for inspections to be performed using different personnel to conduct the inspection than had performed the construction activity.

PHMSA also proposes to codify use of its State Inspection Calculation Tool, which is used to help states determine the base-level amount of time needed for inspections to maintain an adequate pipeline safety program. PHMSA proposes other pipeline safety initiatives for all part 192-regulated pipelines, including gas transmission and gathering pipelines. This includes updating emergency response plans and inspection requirements. Finally, PHMSA proposes to apply annual reporting requirements to small, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) operators in lieu of DIMP requirements.

For a copy of the NPRM, click here.


PHMSA PSMS Survey Now Live

The online portal for PHMSA’s Pipeline Safety Management Systems (PSMS) voluntary Information Collection Request is now available on the same portal used for Gas Distribution Annual Report submissions. Operators have until September 19, 2023, to respond.

RCP Offers PSMS Development and Gap Analysis
RCP has extensive experience in developing, assessing, and implementing safety management systems. RCP subject matter experts played an instrumental role in conducting industry research for the development and creation of API 1173, including the public awareness materials and the planning, implementation, and program effectiveness tools used throughout the industry.

PSMS programs provide proven benefits to operational productivity and efficiency through:
– Improving personnel and pipeline safety performance
– Installing a continuous improvement mindset
– Enabling active engagement with company leadership

Contact Jessica Foley to discuss how investing in your Pipeline Safety Management System can benefit you!


Arkansas Damage Prevention Reg Changes

On August 14th, the Arkansas State regulations for Chapter 271 – Underground Facilities Damage Prevention were updated.  Additions, deletions and modifications were made to the definitions. New language was added to Chapter 14-271-104. Penalties – Civil Remedies. “. . .any person who damages an underground facility and violates this chapter shall be subject to a civil penalty or mandatory training in underground facilities damage prevention, as follows:

  • For a first violation in a twelve-month period a person who violates this chapter may be required to undergo training in underground facilities damage prevention according to a training program developed and administered by the One Call Center.
  • Subsequent violations within a twelve-month period, the maximum penalty amount under the penalty structure of this subsection shall not exceed $50,000.
  • For a second violation in a twelve-month period, the person shall be ordered to pay a civil penalty in an amount up to $5,000 for each violation; and
  • For three (3) or more violations in a twelve-month period, the person shall be ordered to pay a civil penalty in an amount up to $10,000 for each violation.
  • For those that have been ordered to undergo training listed above, shall be subject to a civil penalty up to $2,500 for each violation if the person fails to complete any of the required training within 120 days from the entry of the order or settlement.

Operators of underground pipeline facilities and excavators, upon violation of certain applicable federal code requirements concerning marking facilities or general waivers as in effect on January 2023, unless excepted under § 14-271-109, and damage an interstate or intrastate natural gas pipeline facility or an interstate or intrastate hazardous liquid pipeline facility, shall be subject to civil penalties in an amount not to exceed two (2) times the amount of property damage to the facility, up to a maximum of $257,664 for each violation for each day that the violation persists, except that the maximum civil penalty shall not exceed $2,257,664 for any related series of violations.

Other miscellaneous changes:

  • Working day starts at 7:00 a.m. on each business day.
  • Operators shall provide an electronic positive response to the One Call Center.
  • Excavators shall confirm through the One Call Center’s electronic positive response system before excavation.
  • Excavators may begin excavation before the specified waiting period only if the excavator has confirmed that all operators have responded with an appropriate electronic positive response.

Changes were also made to 14-271-109 Notice to One Call Center – Exceptions and 14-271-110 Notifying operators of underground facilities — Identification of location.

For a copy of the updated regulation, contact Jessica Foley.


Texas RRC Notices to Pipeline Operators

The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) issued several notices to Pipeline Operators regarding electronic or online filing for POCs and new construction reports; and, there is a new address for the Fort Worth office.

Plan of Correction Letter Electronic or Online Filing Mandatory September 1

Pipeline operators must submit POC letters, including completion documentation, by email to Safety@rrc.texas.gov or online using the RRC’s Pipeline, Inspection, Permitting and Evaluation System (RRC PIPES) available on the RRC website. To view the full notice click here.

New Construction Reports Online Filing Mandatory September 1

Effective September 1, 2023, the RRC will no longer accept hard copy filings of Form PS-48, New Construction Report, by mail. Pipeline operators must submit New Construction Reports using the RRC’s Pipeline, Inspection, Permitting and Evaluation System (RRC PIPES) available on the RRC website.

Likewise, correspondence from the RRC to pipeline operators on New Construction Report status will no longer be sent by mail. All RRC correspondence will be sent by email. To ensure you receive the correspondence, we suggest you mark Safety@rrc.texas.gov as safe so emails from the RRC will appear in your inbox.

Pipeline operators, who are authenticated users, can log into RRC PIPES to submit New Construction Reports for review and approval by the RRC. To become an authenticated user, you must request access to the RRC Access Management Process (RAMP) through your organization’s Delegated Administrator. Each company must designate at least one Delegated Administrator to manage their PIPES authenticated users. The Delegated Administrator can create new users, reset passwords, inactivate accounts, and perform other administrative tasks for their organization’s users. To become a Delegated Administrator, visit the RRC website at https://www.rrc.texas.gov/apps/rrc-ramp/.

If you have any questions regarding this notice, please contact RRC Pipeline Safety Department at safety@rrc.texas.gov or 512-463-7058.  To view the full notice click here.

Texas RRC Fort Worth Office Moving to New Location

The Fort Worth office of the RRC (Pipeline Safety Region 6) is moving. The new location is 6777 Camp Bowie Blvd., Suite 233, Fort Worth, Texas 76116. The office will open for regular business on Friday, September 1. The office’s telephone and fax numbers will remain the same.


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 July 2023, PHMSA issued 1 CAO, 3 NOAs, 5 NOPVs, and no WLs accompanied by $119,000 in proposed fines. Significant proposed fines were attributed to the following code sections:

  • $33,500 – 49 CFR 192.805(b) – Qualification Program
  • $16,700 – 49 CFR 195.446(c)(3) – Control Room Management
  • $68,800 – PHMSA-2008-0331 – Response Time for ILI Results

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.


Q&A Section

Do you have questions? RCP’s SMEs have the answers. Information will be posted here for questions we often get from clients or discussions we have with regulators, interpretations and pending regulatory deadlines.

Q:  Is a spill of diesel fuel from a tank used to refill company vehicles at a crude oil pumping station considered to be a PHMSA-reportable spill?

A: PHMSA’s regulations in 49 CFR 195.50 require accident reporting for “a release of the hazardous liquid or carbon dioxide transported.”  Since the facility in question does not transport diesel fuel, the spill is not reportable to PHMSA.  Note that it may be reportable to other state or federal agencies. 

Ask the Experts

Do you have a question for the experts at RCP?  Submit your question using this form. If your question is selected for a future newsletter, you will be eligible for a gift of your choice from RCP’s online Store.

Upcoming Deadlines:

  • The deadline to submit written comments in response to PHMSA’s forthcoming NPRM on Pipeline Safety: Safety of Gas Distribution Pipeline and Other Pipeline Safety Initiatives will have 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.  Comments may be filed at https://www.regulations.gov/ Docket No. PHMSA-2021-0046.
  • And as a reminder, the “Stay of Enforcement” does not mean regulators don’t expect work toward getting compliance activities in place can be ignored.

If we can help, contact Jessica Foley.


Did you know?

DID YOU KNOW? Natural gas is what fuels the stoves and ovens that deliver world-class, memorable meals in restaurants and resorts. Hotels use natural gas to provide hot showers, clean linens, and to keep the lights no matter the situation. In colder climates, heated pools and saunas allow guests to relax, and fire pits keep people warm while connecting with family and friends and enjoying the outdoors. Natural gas is the reliable, affordable fuel that is central to so much of the fun we experience and the time we spend with friends and family and the world around us. Learn more about how natural gas fuels the hospitality sector in AGA’s Advancing America Series.


2024 Conference News

Pipeline Pigging & Integrity Management Conference
February 12-16, 2024 | George R. Brown Convention Center | Houston, TX 

The Pipeline Pigging and Integrity Management Conference (PPIM) in Houston, Texas, serves as a pivotal gathering for professionals in the pipeline industry. This annual event brings together experts, engineers, and industry leaders to discuss the latest advancements and best practices in pipeline integrity, maintenance, and inspection. Attendees can expect insightful presentations, interactive discussions, and access to cutting-edge technologies aimed at ensuring the safe and efficient operation of pipelines. PPIM in Houston serves as a hub for networking, knowledge exchange, and collaboration, playing a crucial role in shaping the future of pipeline integrity management.

Click here to register to attend PPIM.


Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) Annual Meeting
March 6-8, 2024 | Hilton Columbus at Easton | Columbus, OH

The Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) Annual Meeting unites key figures from both state and national spheres to deliberate on the pressing matters shaping the Ohio oil and gas sector. As the foremost business gathering of the Association, it serves as a focal point for industry leaders, providing a platform for discussions on contemporary challenges and opportunities. Attendees can engage in a spectrum of activities, including Business Sessions to delve into critical topics, Breakout Sessions for in-depth exploration, a comprehensive Trade Show showcasing innovations, and Networking Receptions offering invaluable opportunities for professional connections.

Click here to register to attend OOGA.


Texas Gas Association (TGA) Distribution Roundtable 2024
March 25-26, 2024 | New Braunfels Civic enter | New Braunfels, TX

The TGA Distribution Roundtable will provide information for natural gas distribution professionals. This gathering of the best minds in the industry encourages discussions on the current state and federal regulations, best practices, and new technologies. It allows for face-to-face exchange of information and ideas on what works and what doesn’t.

Click here to register to attend TGA Distribution Roundtable.


AGA Operations Conference & Spring Committee Meetings
April 28-May 2, 2024 | Hyatt Regency Seattle | Seattle, WA

The Operations Conference is the natural gas industry’s premier gathering of utilities, distribution, and transmission operators.  Leaders and technical experts from across North America and the world attend the event. Developed by gas operators for gas operators – this event is the industry’s largest annual forum with regularly more than 800 operations management in attendance. The event offers technical sessions with topics to include but not be limited to gas measurement, pipeline integrity, operations advocacy, system safety, environment, storage, engineering, renewable natural gas, construction and maintenance, gas control, supplemental gas, corrosion control, and piping materials. Attendees share technical knowledge, leadership strategies, and learning events promoting the safe, reliable, and cost-effective delivery of natural gas to the end-user.

Click here to register for the AGA Operations Conference & Spring Committee Meetings.

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

Sincerely,

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