States take a harder line on natural gas and hazardous liquids pipeline safety than the federal government does, and most exceed federal requirements on pipeline operations, maintenance, and reporting provisions, according to new research by the National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives (NAPSR).
The “Compendium of State Pipeline Safety Requirements & Initiatives Providing Increased Public Safety Levels” report was sponsored by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC). It presents applicable state pipeline safety regulations and demonstrates where they exceed federal code. “…[T]he vast majority of state pipeline safety agencies are enforcing numerous actions that surpass federal requirements to enhance gas and hazardous liquid pipeline safety in response to local needs,” NARUC said.
“Although all state programs are certified by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation that they will adopt regulations at least as stringent as the federal pipeline safety regulations, most have adopted more stringent safety regulations that only the states can enforce,” said NAPSR Chair Paul Metro of Pennsylvania. “This is a tremendous advantage since our inspectors not only are employed by their respective state government agency but have the inherent understanding, familiarity and concerns of the public that is impacted the most.”
Metro also said each state determines whether its individual situation demands safety rules stricter than the federal requirements. “All states must adhere with the federal standards, but each determines whether their own situation and conditions demand additional safety measures.”
For instance, the researchers found that a state’s regulators may have identified a particular provision as necessary to address a situation particular to that state. This could include the discovery of a series of risky practices or a particular incident, the report said.
More than 1,100 state pipeline provisions are identified in the report as being tailored to particular local conditions in the Lower 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. These provisions are grouped into 22 categories, of which the top three are enhanced reporting, with 23% of the initiatives; followed by design/installation requirements, with 13% of the initiatives; and, leak survey/leak response with 12%.
The report also said most states exceed federal requirements on pipeline operations, maintenance and reporting provisions. However, that doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement. A recent state audit of the pipeline oversight activities of the Railroad Commission of Texas found areas in need of improvement (see Daily GPI, Nov. 7).
Last month the U.S. Senate passed pipeline safety reauthorization legislation that would levy stiffer penalties for violations on oil and natural gas pipelines and require installation of automatic shutoff valves on new transmission lines (see Daily GPI, Oct. 19).
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