WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) today announced the issuance of a final rule to establish the process for evaluating State excavation damage prevention programs and enforcing Federal standards in states where such requirements are inadequate or do not exist.
“Excavation damage is a leading cause of serious pipeline incidents that cause death, injuries and property damage,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The rule strengthens our ability to take enforcement action against those who violate pipeline damage prevention requirements, and to address one of the greatest threats to pipeline safety.”
Congress authorized the DOT to take this action under the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement and Safety (PIPES) Act of 2006. The final rule amends the federal pipeline safety regulations to establish the following:
• The criteria and procedures PHMSA will use to determine the adequacy of State pipeline excavation damage prevention law enforcement programs.
• The administrative process for States to contest notices of inadequacy from PHMSA should they elect to do so.
• The Federal requirements PHMSA will enforce against excavators for violations in States with inadequate excavation damage prevention law enforcement programs.
• The adjudication process for administrative enforcement proceedings against excavators where federal authority is exercised.
“Between 1988 and 2014, there were 1,815 pipeline incidents caused by excavation damage that resulted in 193 deaths, 757 injuries and nearly $545 million in property damage,” said PHMSA Interim Executive Director Stacy Cummings. “This rule represents a critical achievement in the Department’s continuing efforts to prevent excavation damage to pipelines.”
The PIPES Act of 2006 directed PHMSA to develop criteria for evaluating the adequacy of State damage prevention laws, and authorized PHMSA to take civil enforcement action against excavators who violate safety requirements. PHMSA published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the excavation damage rule in 2009 and a notice of proposed rulemaking in 2012.
PHMSA has undertaken a variety of efforts over many years to reduce excavation damage to pipelines. These efforts include performing studies, advocacy, grant making, rulemaking, and partnership with a wide spectrum of excavation damage prevention stakeholders.
The final rule has been transmitted to the Federal Register for publication. An actual date of publication will be determined by the Federal Register, but a preview of the rulemaking proposal transmitted by PHMSA is available on the agency’s website.
For more information on the U.S. DOT’s efforts to improve pipeline safety and awareness, including details about the final rule, visit the PHMSA website at www.phmsa.dot.gov.