WASHINGTON – Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez, head of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) signed a long awaited rulemaking package that makes safety improvements for hazardous liquid pipelines. The signing of the final rule for the safety of on-shore hazardous liquid pipelines completes one of the agency’s top priority rulemakings for 2016.
“The changing energy environment in the United States requires that we all become increasingly anticipatory, predictive, and prepared for emerging risks,” said Dominguez. “This is a forward looking rule- it pushes operators to invest in increased data capabilities, to continuously improve their processes to assess and mitigate risk, and strengthens our framework for strong prescriptive regulations.”
The rule increases focus on a data and risk-informed approach to pipeline safety by requiring operators to integrate available data, including data on the operating environment, pipeline condition, and known manufacturing and construction defects. The rule requires pipeline operators to have a system for detecting leaks and to establish a timeline for inspecting affected pipelines following an extreme weather event or natural disaster. The inspections will allow operators to quickly identify damage to pipelines and make appropriate remediations.
The rule also requires operators to annually evaluate the protective measures they are already required to implement on pipeline segments that operate in high-consequence areas (HCA) where pipeline failures have the highest potential for human or environmental damage, and implement additional measures as necessary. In addition, the rule sets a deadline for operators to use internal inspection tools where possible for any new and replaced pipeline that could affect an HCA.
The rule also improves the quality and frequency of tests used to assess threats and the condition of pipelines, and updates repair criteria under PHMSA’s risk-based management framework by expanding the list of conditions that require immediate repair.
“As the use of hazardous liquid pipelines to transport the nation’s energy supply grows, communities around the country have demanded regulatory certainty around the safe operation of these lines and facilities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This rule gives operators clear direction on the design, construction, and operation of hazardous liquid pipelines lines and holds them accountable for the safety of the communities they serve- its full implementation will be a vital step in driving our pipeline safety mission.”
The nation contains close to 200,000 miles of liquid pipelines operating near local communities and treasured landscapes, and crossing major bodies of water, including rivers. The rule signed today strengthens the standards that determine how operators repair aging and high-risk infrastructure, increases the quality and frequency of tests that assess the condition of pipelines, and extends leak detection the requirements to onshore, non-HCA transmission hazardous liquid pipelines.
The final rulemaking has been transmitted to the Federal Register for publication. An actual date of publication will be determined by the Federal Register, and PHMSA will update its website with a link to the rule when it is published.