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Department of Transportation Proposes Expanded Safety Regulations for Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

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On October 1, 2015, the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) detailing its proposed revisions to the comprehensive safety standards for the design, construction, testing, operation, and maintenance of hazardous liquid pipelines. The Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Regulations are codified in 49 C.F.R. Part 195 and apply broadly to the transportation of hazardous liquid or carbon dioxide by pipeline, including along the Outer Continental Shelf, with certain exceptions set forth by statute or regulation. In addition to several proposed new requirements for hazardous liquid pipelines, the NOPR proposes clarifying changes to the regulations in order to improve compliance and enforcement.
 
If enacted, the proposed regulations will extend PHMSA regulation of liquid pipelines to pipelines not previously regulated, expand requirements applicable to pipelines that are currently not heavily regulated, and impose accelerated timelines for pipeline repairs. 
 
Extension of Certain Reporting Requirements to All Hazardous Liquid Pipelines
 
Pipelines that carry product by means of gravity, or “gravity lines,” are currently exempt from PHMSA regulations. The NOPR proposes to add a requirement that the operators of all gravity lines comply with requirements for submitting annual safety-related condition and incident reports. PHMSA is also proposing to extend the existing reporting requirements of the Part 195 regulations to all hazardous liquid gathering lines. A gathering line under PHMSA regulations is a pipeline with a nominal diameter of 219.1 millimeters or less that transports a hazardous liquid from a production facility. 
 
Inspections of Pipelines in Areas Affected by Extreme Weather, Natural Disasters, and Other Similar Events
 
The NOPR proposes to require that operators of regulated pipelines perform an additional inspection within 72 hours after the cessation of an extreme weather event such as a hurricane or flood, an earthquake, a natural disaster, or other similar event. Specifically, the proposed rulemaking requires that an operator must inspect all potentially affected pipeline facilities after an extreme weather event to ensure that no conditions exist that could adversely affect the safe operation of that pipeline. The operator would be required to consider the nature of the event and the physical characteristics, operating conditions, location, and prior history of the affected pipeline in determining the appropriate method for performing the required inspection. If an adverse condition is found, the operator must take appropriate remedial action to ensure the safe operation of a pipeline based on the information obtained as a result of the inspection. 
 

Periodic Assessment of Pipelines That Are Not Already Covered Under the Integrity Management Program

The proposed regulations will require assessments for pipeline segments located outside of high consequence areas (“HCAs”). Specifically, the NOPR proposes to require operators to assess non-HCA pipeline segments with an inline inspection tool (“ILI”) at least once every ten years. PHMSA seeks comments with specific regard to alternative interval periods.
Notably, compliance with this proposed regulation will require operators of non-HCA pipelines to comply with other provisions of the Part 195 regulations. These provisions include adhering to the recordkeeping provisions for inspection, testing, and repairs, incorporating the appropriate provisions for performing periodic assessments and any resulting repairs in the operator’s procedural manual, and taking appropriate remedial action under 49 C.F.R. § 195.422, which provides standards for the performance of non-integrity management (“IM”) repairs.

Integrity Management Repair Criteria

Currently, repair criteria in non-HCAs do not specify anomaly or repair timeframes, which are instead left entirely to the operator’s discretion. Accordingly, the NOPR is proposing to require that certain repairs be made immediately. Specifically, dents located on the bottom of the pipeline that have any indication of metal loss, cracking or a stress riser, as well as situations in which the pipeline’s calculated burst pressure is less than 1.1 times the maximum operating pressure at the location of an anomaly would both be categorized as immediate repair conditions. The NOPR also proposes to include a general requirement for performing all other repairs within a reasonable time, to apply the repair criteria to non-IM pipeline repairs and to extend the proposed new pipeline remediation requirements to regulated onshore gathering lines. 

Expansion of the Use of Leak Detection Systems for all Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

The NOPR proposes to amend the regulations to require that all new hazardous liquid pipelines be designed to include leak detection systems. Currently, only hazardous liquid pipelines that could affect an HCA must comply with certain leak detection requirements. Further, the proposed regulations require operators to perform an evaluation to determine what kinds of systems must be installed to adequately protect the public, property, and the environment. The factors that must be considered in performing that evaluation would include the characteristics and history of the affected pipeline, the capabilities of the available leak detection systems, and the location of emergency response personnel. The NOPR also proposes to require all regulated onshore gathering lines to comply with these new leak detection requirements.

Increase in the Use of Inline Inspection Tools

The proposed regulations will require that all hazardous liquid pipelines in HCAs and areas that could affect an HCA be made capable of accommodating ILI tools within 20 years, unless the basic construction of a pipeline will not accommodate the passage of such a device.

The NOPR is available for review here. Comments to the NOPR are due by January 8, 2016.

 

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