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PHMSA’s NPRM Offers Pipeline Operators New Alternatives to Addressing Changes in Population Density Near Natural Gas Pipelines

On September 3, 2020, PHMSA transmitted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to the Federal Register. The NPRM seeks public comment on proposed revisions to safety regulations pertaining to class location requirements for natural gas transmission pipelines. The proposals would provide new options for required actions following a change in class location due to population changes.

“Class locations are assigned to a given area based on population density and can change over time as local populations grow. This has been a mainstay of pipeline safety regulations since their inception 50 years ago.  We also recognize that technology and methods to assess these pipelines have improved over this same time,” said PHMSA Deputy Administrator Drue Pearce.

The NPRM proposes to allow operators to perform integrity management measures on pipelines that experience class location changes following population growth as an equally safe, but less costly alternative to reducing pressure or replacing pipe. The NPRM would also exclude certain pipeline segments that are known to have certain risk factors from the new alternative, and would impose additional requirements beyond the integrity management measures that apply to pipeline segments in high-consequence areas. Cost savings estimates range from $55 to $86 million annually, depending on the total pipeline mileage affected by the rule.

The proposed rule has been transmitted to the Federal Register. Comments will be accepted for 60 days following publication of the NPRM.