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Proposed Rule: Public Awareness Regulations for Small Gas Distribution Operators

As described below, PHMSA proposes to relax regulatory requirements governing public awareness programs conducted by operators of master meter systems and certain operators of petroleum gas systems. These operators typically manage property and incidentally provide gas service to customers located on the property. The proposed change provides a less burdensome means for these operators to satisfy public awareness needs. Anyone interested in filing written comments on the rule proposed in this document must do so by November 28, 2006 (Docket No. PHMSA-2003-15852).

A master meter system is defined in 49 CFR 191.3. An operator of a master meter system receives gas through a meter as the customer of a local distribution company and then redistributes the gas on its own property. The operator of a master meter system distributes gas as an incidental part of a primary business. For example, a typical master meter operator manages a trailer park or apartment complex and may charge residents for the gas service through the rent. The master meter system is typically located on the property of the master meter operator. The proposal will require a master meter operator to conduct a limited public education program reaching (1) customers of the master meter system and (2) persons controlling other property, if any, the master meter system crosses.

Many operators of petroleum gas systems are similar to operators of master meters because they distribute gas as an incidental part of their primary business. The operator of a petroleum gas system receives a supply of propane (or similar petroleum product), frequently by truck; vaporizes it; and supplies its customers with petroleum gas. A petroleum gas system may be in a remote area without gas distribution service, for example a ski lodge. Some operators of a petroleum gas system distribute gas as a major part of their business. These operators have pipeline safety expertise equivalent to other gas distribution companies and should develop and implement public awareness programs. Others, like operators of master meter systems, distribute gas incidentally to a primary business, such as property management. These petroleum gas operators need to communicate with their customers and those persons controlling property they cross. They also need to maintain liaison required by 49 CFR 192.615 with emergency responders. However, they will be less effective in the remaining outreach activities required for public awareness. The proposal relieves them of public awareness requirements to the same extent as master meter operators, retaining the same communication requirements. Proposed 49 CFR 192.616(j), which provides the alternative for master meter operators, also addresses petroleum gas operators.

The regulations currently require development and implementation of public awareness programs meeting API RP 1162. This proposal provides less onerous requirements for master meter and petroleum gas operators (for whom gas transportation is not a primary business activity) regardless of size. The proposal would require compliance in early 2007, which should allow sufficient time for compliance.