In This Issue

PHMSA Reauthorization – PIPES Act 2020

Contained within the $900 billion, 5,593 page ‘‘Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021’’, you will find the “Protecting Our Infrastructure Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2020”, otherwise known as the PIPES Act of 2020. This was signed into law by President Trump on December 27th and authorizes funding for PHMSA to carry out its mission through fiscal year 2023.

The Act includes several mandates that will require future PHMSA rulemaking; some provisions that are effective immediately, that will likely be codified by PHMSA in the future; and requirements for various studies and reports to congress. Some highlights are provided below. For a copy of the PIPES Act of 2020, contact Jessica Foley at

PHMSA-Specific Mandates

PHMSA Workforce Development

  • Identify opportunities for distance learning
  • Increase inspector workforce and maintain a minimum inspector staffing levels throughout the duration of fiscal 2023
  • Recruiting and retainage incentives for new and existing workforce

Advancement of New Pipeline Safety  Technologies and Approaches

  • Encourages safety-enhancing testing programs to evaluate innovative technologies and operational practices testing the safe operation of hazardous liquid and natural gas pipelines
  • Establishes limitations and prohibitions where these safety enhancing testing programs may be performed

Self-Disclosure of Violations to PHMSA

  • Allows PHMSA to consider operator-disclosure and correction of violations, or actions to correct a violation prior to discovery by PHMSA, as mitigating factors when determining penalties

Due Process Protections in Enforcement Proceedings

  • Provides enhanced due process during enforcement proceedings
  • Opens formal hearings to the public

Automatic or Remote-Controlled Shut-Off Valves on Existing Pipelines

  • Mandates that the National Academy of Sciences conduct a study and report back to Congress their findings of potential methodologies or standards for the installation of automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves on existing pipelines located within high consequence areas

All Pipeline Mandates

“Idled Pipe” operational status clarifications

  • Provides a definition of “Idled Pipe”
  • Mandates PHMSA develop regulations prescribing the applicability of the pipeline safety requirements related to Idled Pipe as well as resumption of service requirements within 2 years

Safety-Related Condition Reports

  • In addition to submitting SRC reports to PHMSA, an operator must also submit these reports to the appropriate State agency or, where no appropriate State agency exists, to the Governor of a State where the SRC occurred, or to the appropriate Tribe where the SRC occurred.

All Gas Pipeline Mandates

Leak Detection for Regulated Gas Pipelines

  • Mandates that PHMSA publish a final rule for regulated gas pipeline leak detection and repair programs for pipeline safety and environmental protection
  • Requires the use of advanced leak detection technologies and practices, including a schedule for repairing or replacing each potentially hazardous leaking pipe

Distribution Gas Pipeline Mandates

Distribution Integrity Management Plans

  • Mandates that PHMSA publish a final rule within 2 years to ensure that each distribution integrity management plan developed by an operator of a distribution system includes an evaluation of the risks resulting from the presence of cast iron pipes and mains in the distribution system and the risks that could lead to or result from the operation of a low-pressure distribution system at a pressure that makes the operation of any connected and properly adjusted low-pressure gas burning equipment unsafe
  • Distribution operators must make available to PHMSA and appropriate State agencies copies of their DIMP, Emergency Response Plans and O&M procedures, including submittal of any significant changes to their DIMP within 60 days of the change for review

Distribution Emergency Response Plans

  • Mandates that PHMSA update regulations within 2 years for gas distribution operators to update their emergency response procedures to include notification to response agencies, public officials and the public as appropriate

Distribution Operations and Maintenance Procedures

  • Mandates that PHMSA update regulations within 2 years for gas distribution operators to update their O&M procedures for responding to overpressurization indications, including specific actions and an order of operations for immediately reducing pressure in or shutting down portions of the gas distribution system, if necessary
  • These updates must have detailed procedures
    • For the management of change process for significant technology, equipment, procedural, and organizational changes to the distribution system
    • To ensure that relevant qualified personnel review and certify construction plans for accuracy, completeness, and correctness
    • To identify and manage traceable, reliable, and complete records, including maps and other drawings, critical to ensuring proper pressure controls for a gas distribution system, and updating these records as needed
    • To have at least one designated person monitor gas pressure at a site with the capability to promptly control overpressurization at a district regulator station during construction projects
    • To assess and upgrade each district regulator station of the operator to ensure that the risk of MAOP exceedance by a common mode of failure is minimized and the regulator station has secondary overpressure-protection safety technology

Gas Gathering Pipeline Mandates

Gas Gathering Lines

  • Mandates that PHMSA publish a final rule within 90 days related to the gas gathering portion of the proposed mega-rule ‘‘Pipeline Safety: Safety of Gas Transmission and Gathering Pipelines’’ (81 FR 20722; Docket No. PHMSA–2011–0023)

LNG Facility Mandates

Liquified Natural Gas Facilities

  • Update O&M standards requirements applicable to large-scale liquefied natural gas facilities (other than peak shaving facilities)
  • Allow for the creation of the National Center of Excellence for Liquefied Natural Gas Safety

Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Mandates

Unusually Sensitive Areas

  • Created definitions for Certain Coastal Waters as well as Coastal Beaches as they relate to Unusually Sensitive Areas
  • Mandates that PHMSA publish a final rule within 90 days that explicitly states that the Certain Coastal Waters and Coastal Beaches are USA ecological resources for purposes of determining whether a hazardous liquid pipeline is in a high consequence area