The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued a proposal seeking to strengthen the federal-state relationship with respect to pipeline damage prevention, as well as the enforcement process.

The notice of proposed rulemaking proposes four primary additions to pipeline safety regulations:

The rulemaking stems from a mandate in the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement and Safety Act of 2006 and is based on PHMSA data that indicates that excavation damage is the source of a significant number of pipeline failures, said the Washington, DC-based law firm VanNess Feldman in a “Pipeline Safety Update” Wednesday.

The proposal calls for the PHMSA to review the adequacy of a state’s pipeline damage prevention program annually. The primary focus will be on whether states have civil penalty authority and whether they exert it enough to deter violations of damage prevention laws. A state can appeal a finding of inadequacy by the PHMSA.

A state would have five years to improve its pipeline damage prevention program before being subject to reduced grant funding from the federal government, VanNess said. A governor may petition PHMSA for a temporary waiver of any grant reduction if he can show that the state has in place a plan and timeline for improvement.

Under the proposed rule, the PHMSA could proceed against excavators if a state’s pipeline damage prevention program is found to be inadequate. The case could be referred to the Department of Justice for civil or criminal judicial enforcement.

Comments on the proposed rule are due June 1.

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