WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) today announced proposed regulations to update critical safety requirements for natural gas transmission pipelines. The proposed rule would broaden the scope of safety coverage both by adding new assessment and repair criteria for gas transmission pipelines, and by expanding these protocols to include pipelines located in areas of medium population density, or “Moderate Consequence Areas,” (MCAs) where an incident would pose risk to human life. The proposed rule provides pipeline operators with regulatory certainty, and responds to both Congressional mandates and outside safety recommendations.
“The significant growth in the nation’s production, usage and commercialization of natural gas is placing unprecedented demands on the nation’s pipeline system,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This proposal includes a number of commonsense measures that will better ensure the safety of communities living alongside pipeline infrastructure and protect our environment.”
The proposed regulations address four congressional mandates from the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011, one GAO recommendation and six NTSB recommendations, including the recommendation adopted in the wake of the San Bruno explosion that pipelines built before 1970 be tested. Pipelines built before 1970 are currently exempted from certain pipeline safety regulations because they were constructed and placed into operation before pipeline safety regulations were developed. In its investigation of the PG&E natural gas pipeline failure and explosion in San Bruno, CA, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that hydrostatic testing of grandfathered pipelines would have likely exposed the defective pipe that led to the pipeline failure.