PHMSA Proposes Revising Pipeline Safety Regulations

October 18, 2023

On Sept. 7, 2023, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) titled “Pipeline Safety: Safety of Gas Distribution and Other Pipeline Safety Initiatives.” It implements provisions from the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act, which was part of the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2020.

Specifically, this NPRM revises certain pipeline safety regulations found in 49 C.F.R. Parts 191 (reporting), 192 (safety) and 198 (state pipeline safety programs). While the NPRM focuses largely on gas distribution pipelines, the changes to Part 192 could impact all regulated pipelines, including gas transmission and gathering pipelines. The NPRM also proposes annual reporting requirements on small liquified petroleum gas operators.

Here are some notable proposed changes at a high level:

  • The NPRM removes the exception for gathering lines from the definitions “Entirely replaced onshore transmission pipeline segments,” “Notification of potential rupture” and “Rupture-mitigation valve” in Section 192.3. This would eliminate the amendments to Part 192 made in response to the 2023 D.C. Circuit decision.
  • The NPRM proposes adopting certain amendments to Section 192.9 to require operators of regulated gathering lines to develop emergency response plans in accordance with Section 192.615.
  • The NPRM proposes changes to Section 192.195 that would require at least two methods of overpressure protection on certain district regulator stations that serve low-pressure distribution systems and would require real-time notification of an over-pressurization event.
  • The NPRM proposes an amendment to Section 192.305 for inspections of new, replaced, relocated or otherwise changed transmission lines and mains that generally would require using different personnel to conduct the inspection than those who had performed the construction activity.
  • The NPRM proposes maintaining records for the life of pipelines operating below 100 psig, service lines and plastic pipelines amending Section 192.517.
  • The NPRM proposes an expanded list of pipeline emergencies under Section 192.615 and would include, for “distribution line operators only, unintentional release of gas and shutdown of gas service to 50 or more customers or, if the operator has fewer than 100 customers, 50 percent or more of its total customers.”
  • The NPRM proposes to amend Section 192.638 to require gas distribution operators to keep, identify and maintain traceable, verifiable and complete documentation of the characteristics of their systems that are critical to ensuring proper pressure controls of the pipeline system.
  • The NPRM proposes amendments to Section 192.1007 expanding the considerations for Distribution Integrity Management Programs.

Comments on the NPRM are due Nov. 6, 2023.