Federal agencies including FERC have been using outdated technical standards for permitting liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities, an issue that could compromise safety, according to a government watchdog.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report published Thursday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) should conduct reviews to regularly update the technical standards used in their permitting regulations.
FERC regulations, for example, cite an outdated earthquake standard from 1984, while PHMSA regulations cite fire standards from 2001; the USCG regulations cite a 1994 standard for fire extinguishers, the GAO found.
The GAO found that out of nine technical standards incorporated in PHMSA regulations for permitting LNG export facilities, eight were outdated. All eight standards used by the USCG were outdated. FERC regulations for permitting LNG facilities include one technical standard on reducing potential damage from earthquakes, which relies on outdated information, according to the GAO.
The agencies must conduct a “standards-specific” review of their regulations every three to five years in order to “be assured that the regulations remain effective at ensuring safety,” the GAO said.
In total, the GAO made nine recommendations to the agencies reviewed in its report, including that they establish processes for updating the technical standards cited in regulations.
The GAO also recommended that FERC “establish a process to regularly review and update its agreements with other agencies for the onshore facility permitting process.” While the Commission has incorporated most of the recommended “key collaboration practices” for permitting onshore LNG export facilities, the GAO found that “some of FERC’s interagency agreements do not reflect changes in the permitting process, such as recent requirements established by the One Federal Decision policy, among other things.”
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