The Biden Administration has denied a request from the American Petroleum Institute and GPA Midstream to delay by 3-5 years what it says will be first-time, “meaningful safety requirements” for an estimated 90,000 miles of natural gas gathering lines. “The longer that gathering lines are not subject to federal standards, the greater the cumulative risk to public safety and the environment,” the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) said in an April 1 letter denying the petition.
In the request for a delay, industry groups said PHMSA’s 18-month compliance deadline for much of the rule was unnecessarily short and would pose high costs because of supply chain constraints. But PHMSA said industry has been aware of its plans for regulation for years.
The safety standards remain set to take effect on May 16, after which operators will have to begin reporting safety incidents along an estimated 400,000 miles of gas gathering lines. The operators of an estimated 90,000 miles of larger gathering lines have until May 16 to begin to comply with federal safety standards and submit annual reports.
PHMSA agreed to provide some clarifications in the rule, but it was unconvinced with industry arguments that compliance will cost operators $28 billion over the next 15 years. PHMSA said the industry cost estimates were based on “severely flawed cost-benefit analysis.”
Gathering lines were historically small enough that PHMSA exempted many of them from oversight. But over the past 15 years, many lines have been built with similar designs and pressures to long-haul transmission pipelines, PHMSA says. The U.S. Congress first told the agency to consider the rules back in 2011, but the safety rule was not finalized until last November.