The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) for its existing class location requirements for natural gas transmission pipelines as they pertain to actions operators must take following class location changes because of nearby population growth.

"Operators have suggested that performing integrity management measures on pipelines where class locations have changed due to population increases would be an equally safe but less costly alternative to the current requirements of either reducing pressure, pressure testing, or replacing pipe," PHMSA said in an announcement published Tuesday in the Federal Register.

The ANPRM continues a line of discussion from a notice of inquiry published in 2013 and a report to Congress two years ago regarding whether expanding integrity management requirements would mitigate the need for class location requirements, PHMSA said.

PHMSA will accept comments on the ANPRM through Oct. 1.

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) has estimated that gas transmission pipeline operators spend as much as $300 million annually replacing pipe to satisfy class location change regulations.

"INGAA strongly supports a common sense update to the class location change regulations that will enable increased deployment of modern integrity assessment technologies and processes,” said INGAA CEO Don Santa. “Despite dramatic engineering and technological shifts that have occurred since 1970, the class location change regulations have never been substantively revised.

"In determining how to address the obsolete class location change regulations, PHMSA should look to the direction taken in its pending gas transmission integrity regulations. These pending integrity regulations provide requirements for using modern pipeline assessment technologies, which are often a more effective, more efficient and less disruptive means of assessing and confirming pipeline safety."