In This Issue

PIPES Act of 2016

[114TH CONGRESS S.2276 / H.R. 4937]

On June 22, 2016, President Obama signed into law the “Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016.” This bill reauthorizes PHMSA’s oil and gas pipeline programs through 2019 and includes new mandates aimed at strengthening PHMSA’s existing safety procedures and programs.

Pipeline Safety: The PIPES Act requires a report be submitted to Congress regarding the integrity management programs for gas and hazardous liquid pipeline facilities. The reports must include: an analysis of technical, operational, and economic feasibility regarding measures to enhance pipeline facility safety; an analysis of the pipeline facility features’ impact on safety; and a description of any challenges affecting Federal and State regulators in the oversight of pipeline facilities.

The PIPES Act authorizes several studies aimed at improving pipeline safety, including a study on “improving existing damage prevention programs through technological improvements in location, mapping, excavation, and communications practices” to reduce releases caused by excavation. It also requires a study for the feasibility of establishing a national integrated pipeline safety regulatory inspection database to facilitate collaboration between PHMSA and State pipeline regulators.

PHMSA will be required to conduct a post-inspection briefing within 30 days of an inspection, and provide written preliminary findings within 90 days of an inspection.

Hazardous Liquid operators will be required to send material safety data sheets to the Federal On-Scene Coordinator and appropriate State and local emergency responders within 6 hours of notification to the National Response Center. Hazardous Liquid spill response plans required by 49 CFR 194 will have to explicitly address ice (if appropriate).

The Great Lakes, coastal beaches, and marine coastal waters will be explicitly designated as unusually environmentally sensitive for the determination of High Consequence Areas.

Underground Gas Storage Facilities: The PIPES Act amends 49 U.S.C. Section 60101(a) to define “underground natural gas storage facility” as “a gas pipeline facility that stores natural gas in an underground facility, including—(A) a depleted hydrocarbon reservoir; (B) an aquifer reservoir; or (C) a solution-mined salt cavern reservoir.” The PIPES Act requires PHMSA to issue, within two years of passage, “minimum safety standards for underground natural gas storage facilities.” In addition, the PIPES Act allows states to adopt more stringent safety standards for intrastate facilities. In order to implement the safety standards, the PIPES Act imposes a “user fee” on entities operating underground storage facilities.

Corrosion & Leak Prevention: The PIPES Act will commission a study of materials and corrosion prevention in pipeline transportation. The study will analyze: the range of piping materials used to transport hazardous liquids and natural gas in the U.S. and other countries; the types of technologies used for corrosion prevention; common causes of corrosion; and the training provided to personnel responsible for identifying and preventing corrosion in pipelines, and for repairing such pipelines. The study will also analyze best practices or guidance aimed at preventing or recognizing corrosion, and analyze the costs and benefits associated with the use of such materials and technologies. The Act also authorizes a study on natural gas leak reporting and calls for a review of State policies relating to natural gas leaks.

Emergency Order Authority: The PIPES Act gives the Secretary the power to quickly issue emergency orders for the pipeline industry if “the Secretary determines that an unsafe condition or practice, or a combination of unsafe conditions and practices, constitutes or is causing an imminent hazard.” The emergency order may impose “emergency restrictions, prohibitions, and safety measures on owners and operators of gas or hazardous liquid pipeline facilities without prior notice or an opportunity for a hearing, but only to the extent necessary to abate the imminent hazard.”

For a copy of the Bill text and a Summary Fact Page, visit the PIPES Act of 2016 website.