The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued three final rules designed to strengthen the safety of onshore natural gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipelines.

The rules are also designed to enhance PHMSA's authority to issue emergency orders to address unsafe conditions or hazards that pose imminent threats to pipeline safety.

"These are significant revisions to federal pipeline safety laws and will improve the safety of our nation's energy infrastructure," said DOT Secretary Elaine Chao.

The rules would modernize federal pipeline safety standards by expanding risk-based integrity management requirements, enhancing procedures to protect infrastructure from extreme weather events, and requiring greater oversight of pipelines beyond current safety requirements. They address congressional mandates from the Pipeline Safety Act of 2011 and recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board.

  • The Gas Transmission rule would require operators of gas transmission pipelines built before 1970 to determine the material strength of their lines by reconfirming the Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure. The rule would also update reporting and records retention standards for gas transmission pipelines.
  • The Hazardous Liquid rule would encourage operators to make better use of all available data to understand pipeline safety threats; extend leak detection requirements to all non-gathering hazardous liquid pipelines; and require operators to inspect affected pipelines following extreme weather events or natural disasters.
  • The Enhanced Emergency Order Procedures rule would adopt the provisions of a 2016 interim final rule that established temporary emergency order procedures in accordance with a provision of the "Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines Enhancing Safety" Act. An emergency order may impose emergency restrictions, prohibitions, or other safety measures on owners and operators of gas or hazardous liquid pipeline facilities.

Don Santa, CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), said the industry was pleased by the release of the "major update" to pipeline safety regulations.

"While INGAA is still reviewing the specifics of the final rule, we know that it embraces new pipeline safety technologies and engineering practices and constitutes the most significant enhancement to PHMSA natural gas transmission pipeline safety regulations since the federal code was created in 1970," Santa said.

Earlier this year, INGAA and several other trade associations representing the energy industry joined pipeline safety groups in voicing their support natural gas transmission pipeline safety rules being considered by PHMSA.

The rules have yet to be published in the Federal Register.