[The following article was previously published in RCP’s Special Edition March 2020 Newsletter.]
On March 19th & 20th, PHMSA issued two guidance statements related to pipeline operators’ potential inability to comply with federal safety requirements throughout the United States as a result of COVID-19.
- Notice of Stay of Enforcement and Notice of Enforcement Discretion to Operators Affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak
PHMSA issued a Stay of Enforcement to state pipeline safety program managers, pipeline operators, and operators of gas storage and liquefied natural gas facilities, temporarily halting its enforcement of compliance with operator qualification, control room management, and employment drug testing requirements. The Stay of Enforcement does not relieve operators of their safety responsibility to use trained, non-impaired workers to perform pipeline operation and maintenance tasks. To read the Notice, click here.
- PHMSA Guidance to State Partners Regarding COVID-19
In addition to the Stay of Enforcement, PHMSA also provided guidance to its state pipeline safety partners on ways to continue to effectively execute their shared pipeline safety mission. PHMSA recognizes state resources may be limited for the foreseeable future and encourages its state partners to consider the guidance as they proceed with their oversight activities. The guidance also explains actions PHMSA will take in its efforts to continue to support the efforts of state pipeline programs during this time. To read this Notice, click here.
Operators should justify and document any deviations from normal regulatory compliance requirements as related to COVID-19 and explain alternative measures being used to ensure safety. PHMSA is also willing to exercise discretion in enforcement of other regulatory requirements, which will also need to be justified, documented, and communicated to the regulator. Examples might include inability to meet dig deadlines or inspection intervals under IMP, or inability to conduct scheduled internal tank inspections.
The employees of RCP are well-equipped to work from home and stand ready to assist our clients with the necessary analysis and documentation of any deviations from regulatory requirements. Please contact Jessica Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org if you require assistance during these unprecedented times.
Since this notice, many states have in turn notified the operators and LDC’s within their state to provide notification should they need relief from certain regulatory requirements.