In This Issue

PHMSA NPRM for Amendments to Administrative Procedures

[Docket No. PHMSA-2012-0102]

The Department of Transportation/Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to update the administrative civil penalty maximums for violation of the pipeline safety regulations; and update the informal hearing and adjudication process for pipeline enforcement matters to conform to current law.

In addition, PHMSA proposes to amend other administrative procedures used by PHMSA personnel, and make other technical corrections and updates to certain administrative procedures. These proposed amendments would implement certain provisions of the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011. PHMSA believes that the proposed amendments do not impose any new operating, maintenance, or other substantive requirements on pipeline owners or operators. Proposed amendments to the regulation include:

  • Increase administrative civil penalty caps to $200,000 per violation per day, up to $2,000,000 for a related series of violations, in line with the increased limits in the 2011 Pipeline Act.
  • Add new provision prohibiting ex parte communications between the parties to an enforcement case and the presiding official or the Associate Administrator.
  • Add a new process for “expedited review” of corrective action orders issued without prior notice and an opportunity to comment, define “expedited review” and remove the requirement that the presiding official issue a recommendation to the Associate Administrator 48 hours after a hearing.
  • Mandate the filing of a petition for reconsideration as a prerequisite to seeking judicial review and add safety orders and corrective action orders to types of cases on which respondents may file petitions for reconsideration.
  • Add new provision requiring the separation of investigative and prosecutorial personnel from decisional personnel within PHMSA in the context of an enforcement case.
  • Broaden PHMSA’s power to issue subpoenas to include situations other than hearing cases.
  • Add provision implementing PHMSA’s new authority to seek civil penalties for obstructions of inspections or investigations.
  • Clarify that operators may submit written responses contesting the NOPV, in lieu of a hearing.

Submit comments on this NPRM by September 12, 2012, and reference Docket Number PHMSA-2012-0102. Comments may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal.

For a copy of this NPRM, contact Jessica Roger.