Responding to major pipeline accidents in California and Pennsylvania over the last few years that caused 22 deaths, the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Monday issued recommendations for natural gas pipelines to preserve and verify records related to maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) and advised hazardous liquid pipeline operators to adhere to the same standards for maximum operating pressure (MOP).
"Collecting good data about pipelines is essential to keeping the people living near them safe. This is just the latest in the Department of Transportation's efforts to improve pipeline safety, including adding more pipeline inspectors," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Record-keeping and reporting requirements were spelled out in the the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Job Creation Act off 2011, which President Obama signed into law in January (see Daily GPI, Jan. 4). The new law imposed tougher penalties and pipe safety requirements in the wake of the Sept. 9, 2010 Pacific Gas and Electric pipeline (PG&E) explosion in San Bruno, CA, and the pipeline explosion in Allentown, PA, in early 2011 (see Daily GPI, Feb. 11, 2011; Sept. 17, 2010).
"Traceable, verifiable and accurate record-keeping in the pipeline world is crucial. It enables us to respond more quickly in the event of an emergency, as well as gives us a more accurate snapshot of the overall infrastructure," said PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman. One of the biggest problems that firefighters faced in containing the PG&E explosion and subsequent fire in the San Bruno area was the lack of information about the pipeline infrastructure.
The advisory informs operators that records supporting MAOP and MOP should be traceable, verifiable, complete and clearly linked to original information about a pipeline segment or facility. The advisory further informs operators that to be complete, pipeline records must display a signature, date or other appropriate marking to show the operator considers it to be a final document.
The PHMSA also is seeking public comments on whether to eliminate a grandfather clause that allowed gas pipeline operators to establish the MAOP of pipe installed before 1970 by relying on historical records. The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended eliminating the grandfather clause, according to the PHMSA.
The advisory comes a year after the PHMSA issued a notice updating its reporting forms for accident and incidents involving gas pipelines, gas gathering systems and hazardous liquid systems. Comments are due by June 12.
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