August 2016, Vol. 243, No. 8

Company & Association News

How Pipeline Safety Programs Really Work

By Steve Allen, National Chairman and Robert Clarillos, Administrative Manager, National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives (NAPSR)
New program manager training at the 2015 NAPSR national meeting.

State pipeline inspectors are the first line of defense at the community level to enforce pipeline safety rules and regulations (state and federal rules), and in many cases, inspect and enforce state underground utility damage prevention laws.

The pipelines inspected by the state programs include gas distribution systems, intrastate transmission lines, interstate transmission lines (if an interstate agency agreement is in place), LNG plants, LP gas (propane) systems, master meter systems, industrial customers and hazardous liquids pipelines.

As an example, depending on the type of inspection being performed, state inspectors closely review operating and maintenance records, conduct inspections of new pipeline installations, inspect for compliance with damage prevention regulations, review operating procedures, investigate pipeline incidents, review incident reports from operators, review integrity management plans and carry out enforcement activities.

The primary goal of state pipeline safety programs is to ensure public safety through inspection and enforcement methods and, when necessary, the state and federal legal systems. State inspectors also assist with promoting public education and awareness through public awareness programs, participation in industry organizations that promote damage prevention and pipeline safety awareness, and through support of master meter and other smaller operators.

NAPSR members use a wide range of methods to verify compliance and enforce rules, including:

  • Annual or periodic inspections of all gas and hazardous liquid pipeline systems.
  • Periodic inspections of other significant pipeline safety programs, such as distribution integrity management, transmission integrity management, control room management programs, public awareness programs and operator qualification programs.
  • Corrective action orders that direct gas companies and operators to make specific safety-related improvements or to make corrections to pipeline facilities not within proper operating parameters.
  • Civil penalties, such as monetary fines.
  • Alternatives to monetary penalties, such as remedial action orders requiring companies to take remedial measures, including pipeline repairs, replacements or changes to operational procedures to ensure pipeline safety, and compliance with federal and state regulations.
  • Rate-of-return control, which helps to ensure the consumer share of pipeline operations and maintenance is fair and violations that result in expenditures to repair system deficiencies are expenses borne by the operator and shareholders.

Health of Pipeline Systems

In performing inspections, state program inspectors verify that operators are complying with the appropriate regulations and company procedures related to the safety and integrity of their pipeline systems. The goal of the inspections is to verify the systems have been properly designed, constructed, tested, operated and maintained in order to provide safe, reliable and consistent energy delivery.

State inspectors typically use checklists that contain all of the state and federal code items pertaining to a particular system. They then set up an appointment with the operator to review operating procedures, and operating and maintenance records. After the records review, the inspectors will select pipeline facilities, such as valves, regulator stations, corrosion-control test points, pipeline patrol segments, rectifier installations and customer meter sets, to visually inspect or test in the field.

Once the inspection is over, the state regulator prepares a report containing observations on records inspections and any probable non-compliance or violation items. This information is presented to the operator so appropriate remedial action can be taken.

Assisting with Compliance

Enforcement actions vary from state to state. In general, when a safety violation is discovered during an inspection, the operator will review and provide responses for each item. In most cases, violations discovered during inspections are corrected shortly after discovery.

For more significant violations, the operator may offer to correct the condition in several ways, subject to state commission review and acceptance. For cases in which pipeline facilities need to be replaced or there are larger scale issues, the state may allow for an extended time period to make the corrections. If the item is a hazard, immediate correction is required.

In some cases, if the violation is severe enough, the state may opt to use an “order to show cause” option and require the operator to formally respond in a hearing setting to state how the correction will be made. Often, the operator is issued a civil penalty, which is subject to state commission rules or statute.

The objective of enforcement is to ensure the operator corrects any unsatisfactory condition and put processes and procedures in place to help avoid recurrence of the violation. States also have the option to work with an operator that has a problem and is willing to do what is necessary to ensure public safety.

Alternate methods of enforcement are also employed and may include a commitment to replace degrading facilities, revise procedures or provide additional training. In many cases, the alternative methods are quite effective and allow a more collaborative approach to enforcement and pipeline safety.

An operator can choose to “self-identify” in which case the state inspectors may work with the company if it has a plan of action and a reasonable time line for compliance. (This will vary from state to state and is dependent on any past records of violations.) In all cases, the objective is to work cooperatively with the operators and do what is necessary to protect the public.

NAPSR Groups

NAPSR has formed up to 50 committees and task groups to tackle tough issues facing regulators and the industry. NAPSR has three standing committees:

  • Liaison Committee, focusing on external issues and providing comments and responses on NAPSR positions.
  • Legislative Committee, monitoring pipeline safety and damage prevention regulations, providing guidance to the membership, and drafting NAPSR comments on current or pending legislation.
  • Grant Allocation and Strategic Planning Committee, reviewing state program guidelines as issued by PHMSA, reviewing state One Call Grants, providing input for other grants, and helping develop the NAPSR strategic plan.

NAPSR task groups cover subjects such as distribution integrity management, transmission integrity management, risk modeling, excavator damage prevention, API 1104 Welding Standards, API 1171 Gas Storage, emergency response, plastic piping (plastic pipe database committee and ASTM F17 Plastics committee), Common Ground Alliance (various committees), Gas Piping Technology Committee, incident investigation, LP gas small operator guide, Community Technical Assistance Grants, public awareness, operator qualification, and the Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee and Liquids Pipeline Advisory Committee (formerly the Technical Pipeline Safety Standards Committee.)

NAPSR also publishes a Compendium of State Pipeline Safety Requirements and Initiative, which outlines the additional rules and regulations each state has in place that are over and above the minimum federal requirements. The federal requirements are contained in CFR 49 Parts 190, 191, 192, 193, 194. 196, 198 and 199.

In many cases the states have opted over the years to enact additional administrative or statutory requirements that help ensure a greater measure of pipeline safety within their jurisdictions. The requirements may include additional reporting of incidents or other conditions to the state, increased inspection intervals for certain pipelines or facilities and additional design requirements. As of the last printing, states have initiated over 1,360 initiatives on 23 separate federal code section. (The compendium can be accessed on the NAPSR website at

NAPSR Meetings

NAPSR is divided into five geographical regions: Eastern, Southern, Central, Southwestern and Western. These follow the PHMSA regions defining areas of oversight of the state programs. In accordance with our federal guidelines, each NAPSR region meets annually. The regional meetings allow state program managers to provide updates, exchange information on compliance and enforcement, review recent rule-making and other PHMSA initiatives, explore new pipeline operating/engineering methods and technology, and network with colleagues.

The national meeting is held annually and attended by all program managers, PHMSA personnel and invited speakers.

NAPSR Industry Involvement  

NAPSR members seek opportunities to interact with industry, professional organizations and other stakeholder groups to promote pipeline safety objectives. Among the organizations that NAPSR communicates with are the American Gas Association (AGA), American Public Gas Association (APGA), Southern Gas Association (SGA), Midwest Energy Association (MEA) the Pipeline Safety Trust, American Petroleum Institute (API), Association of Oil Pipelines (AOPL), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and Gas Technology Institute (GTI).

NAPSR’s Important 

State pipeline safety programs are a key element of the overall national pipeline safety program. States provide the bulk of the inspections for the distribution systems across the nation. The state programs provide the “boots on the ground” and the inspection expertise, adapted by region or locale.

States also have built professional relationships with operators so that expectations of compliance are clear and effective communication takes place. State pipeline safety programs clearly have the experience and personnel to help ensure the operators remain in compliance with state and federal regulations.

NAPSR has always been a critical partner with PHMSA in efforts to enhance pipeline safety throughout the nation. Together, NAPSR and PHMSA comprise a partnership that is continuously moving forward to help ensure that pipeline infrastructure is efficient, economical, reliable and, foremost, as safe as possible.

NAPSR, a non-profit corporation, is a national association with members that represent the 48 contiguous states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Nearly 90% of the nation’s 2.3 million miles of pipelines are directly subject to NAPSR regulatory oversite.

NAPSR individual membership is comprised of dedicated state pipeline safety program managers, inspectors and technical personnel who are responsible for the state pipeline safety programs. 

Authors: Steve Allen is national chairman of NAPSR and director of Pipeline Safety for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. He can be reached at 

Robert Clarillos is administrative manager of NAPSR. He can be reached at


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