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GPA Comments on Proposed Updates to Pipeline Safety Rules

New safety regulations for hazardous liquid pipelines proposed by the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) would cost more than regulators’ estimate, according to comments filed late last week by the Gas Processors Association (GPA).

PHMSA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking for the new regulations last October. The agency said the rules would improve safety of hazardous liquid pipelines by ramping up required safety inspections and reporting and by establishing more stringent repair timetables, among other things.

PHMSA has been working over the past few years on tightening its rules governing pipeline safety after Congress passed the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Job Creation Act of 2011 (see Daily GPI, July 14, 2015).

In response to the proposed standards for regulating hazardous liquid pipelines, GPA said the $22 million cost PHMSA has attached to the rule is “grossly underestimated.”

“The actual cost of the proposed rule far exceeds that figure, and it’s important to note that the unaccounted-for costs will be put on midstream operators, and ultimately the end-user,” said Matthew Hite, GPA vice president of government affairs. “Moreover, no data or justification has been provided to demonstrate how or why the proposed changes are reasonable or necessary.”

GPA took issue with language in the rule that would require most pipelines to accommodate “smart pigs.” The rule states that the requirement may even extend to “existing natural gas transmission pipeline or hazardous liquid pipeline facilities, whose basic construction would accommodate an instrumented internal inspection device.”

“This is a very problematic requirement of the proposed rule,” Hite said. “Requiring systems to be piggable that are physically unable to be pigged is unrealistic. Requiring that lines be retrofitted is also unrealistic since a majority of the lines do not have minimum flow characteristics to propel the devices through the line.”

GPA also raised concerns about PHMSA’s efforts to modify the definition of high consequence areas (HCA).

“We feel that the current definition of a HCA adequately encompasses 99.9% of sensitive areas which pipelines traverse,” Hite said. “We feel this assessment expansion is proposed to cover gathering, which PHMSA has not yet even collected data to determine whether or not there is a problem. This one-size-fits-all expansion is not risk-based and lacks the necessary data to justify it.”

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