The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service is seeking to update its regulations involving pipelines and pipeline rights-of-way (ROW) on the federal Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The regulations were last revised in 1988.

As one of two new safety initiatives, the MMS is proposing a requirement that companies submit to the agency pipeline operations and maintenance manuals, as well as pipeline integrity management and personnel training manuals. The proposed rule also would require that all pipeline risers attached to floating platforms be subject to a verification program -- an independent third-party review of the design, fabrication and installation of the pipeline risers -- similar to, but separate from, the platform verification program., the agency said.

Moreover, the MMS noted the proposal rule would require an increase in the ROW bonding amount to reflect the actual liabilities in decommissioning pipelines. The proposed revisions would allow an ROW holder the option of choosing to cover the pipeline ROW with either a $300,000 individual bond or a $1 million area bond -- one that would cover all pipeline ROW grants held by a company in one MMS OCS region. ROW bonds ensure that companies have adequate funds in reserve for the eventual decommissioning and removal of pipelines.

The Interior agency also is seeking to increase annual rental fees for pipeline ROW grants, which currently are $15/mile, to more closely reflect the guidelines established for new rights of use and easement (RUE) and pipeline accessory structures, which are based on acreage and would equal approximately $125/mile. The proposed rule stipulates rates of $70/mile, striking a balance between the ROW and RUE amounts, MMS said.

MMS has requested comments on the proposed rule within the next 120 days.

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