President Barack Obama Signs PIPES Act of 2016, Reauthorizing PHMSA and Presenting New Mandates for Gas and oil Pipeline Programs

On June 22, 2016, President Barack Obama signed an invoice reauthorizing the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) gas and oil pipeline programs through 2019. Obama’s final stamp around the Safeguarding our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Improving Safety Act of 2016 (PIPES Act or Act) follows unanimous passage both in the home and Senate. Additionally to reauthorizing PHMSA and it is connected programs, the Act includes new mandates targeted at strengthening PHMSA’s existing safety methods and programs.

Pipeline Safety After the completion of a PHMSA pipeline safety inspection, the Act requires the Comptroller General to submit reports to Congress regarding the integrity management programs for gas and hazardous liquid pipeline facilities.  The reports must include, among other requirements: an analysis of technical, operational, and economic feasibility regarding measures to enhance pipeline facility safety; an analysis of the pipeline facility features’ impact on safety; and a description of any challenges affecting Federal and State regulators in the oversight of pipeline facilities.

Additionally, the Act authorizes several studies targeted at enhancing pipeline safety. For instance, the Secretary of Transportation (Secretary) must conduct research on “improving existing damage prevention programs through technological enhancements in location, mapping, excavation, and communications practices” to lessen releases brought on by excavation.  Further, the Act necessitates the Secretary to convene a functional group to think about creating a voluntary information-discussing system to facilitate enhancing inspection information feedback and pipeline facility integrity risk analysis.  The PIPES Act also necessitates the Secretary to review the practicality of creating a nationwide integrated pipeline safety regulating inspection database to facilitate collaboration between PHMSA and Condition pipeline government bodies.

Underground Gas Storage Facilities The Act amends 49 U.S.C. section 60101(a) to define “underground gas storage facility” as “a gas pipeline facility that stores gas within an subterranean facility, including-(A) a depleted hydrocarbon reservoir (B) an aquifer reservoir or (C) an answer-found salt cavern reservoir.”  The PIPES Act requires PHMSA to issue, within 2 yrs of passage, “minimum safety standards for subterranean gas storage facilities.”  Additionally, the Act specifically enables states to consider tighter safety standards for intrastate facilities, if such standards are suitable for the minimum standards recommended in section 12 from the Act.  To be able to implement the security standards, the PIPES Act imposes a “user fee” on organizations operating subterranean storage facilities.

Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Facilities Under the Act, owners or operators of hazardous liquid pipeline facilities are required to prepare a response plan that considers the impact of a discharge into or on navigable waters, and includes procedures and resources for responding to such a discharge.

Leak Prevention and Reporting Requirements The Act commissions research of materials and corrosion prevention in pipeline transportation. The research will evaluate: the plethora of piping materials to move hazardous fluids and gas within the U . s . States along with other nations the kinds of technologies employed for corrosion prevention common reasons for corrosion and also the training presented to personnel accountable for determining and stopping corrosion in pipelines, as well as for repairing such pipelines. The research may also evaluate guidelines or guidance targeted at stopping or realizing corrosion, and evaluate the expense and benefits connected by using such materials and technologies.

The Act also authorizes research on gas leak confirming. The research will examine various confirming needs, and evaluate whether separate or alternative confirming needs could better appraise the amounts and find out the location of lost and unaccounted for gas, and also the impacts alternative confirming might have on safety.

Further, the Act requires overview of Condition guidelines relevant to gas leaks. The PHMSA Administrator must conduct a Condition-by-Condition overview of Condition-level guidelines relevant to leak repair and substitute of systems that pose a security threat, or that could create obstacles for organizations to conduct try to repair and replace dripping gas pipelines.

Emergency Order Authority The PIPES Act gives the Secretary the power to quickly issue emergency orders for the pipeline industry if “the Secretary determines that an unsafe condition or practice, or a combination of unsafe conditions and practices, constitutes or is causing an imminent hazard.” The emergency order may impose “emergency restrictions, prohibitions, and safety measures on owners and operators of gas or hazardous liquid pipeline facilities without prior notice or an opportunity for a hearing, but only to the extent necessary to abate the imminent hazard.”