The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), otherwise known as America's pipeline regulator, has been deliberating for years on ways to strengthen its regulatory framework and at long last issued three new pipeline safety rules that will materially affect the way the over 804,672 km of pipelines are operated in the United States.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao personally weighed in saying, “These are significant revisions to federal pipeline safety laws and will improve the safety of our nation’s energy infrastructure.”
The new regulations strengthen gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipeline safety by raising the bar on federal pipeline safety standards. The agency explains that the new rules will expand a requirement to incorporate wholistic, risk-based integrity management plans, which utilize data to follow and chart the health of pipelines throughout their lifecycle.
Specifically, The final rule includes: (i) extending an operator’s reporting requirements to liquid gravity and rural gathering lines; (ii) requiring the inspection of pipelines affected by extreme weather and natural disasters; (iii) requiring integrity assessments at least once every 10 years of onshore hazardous liquid pipeline segments outside of high-consequence areas; (iv) requiring onshore hazardous liquid pipeline segments outside of high-consequence areas to be capable of accommodating in-line inspection tools; (v) extending the required use of leak detection systems beyond high consequence areas to include all regulated, non-gathering hazardous liquid pipelines; and (vi) subject to limited exceptions, requiring all pipelines in or affecting high-consequence areas be capable of accommodating in-line inspection tools within 20 years.
PHMSA Administrator Skip Elliott summarized by saying the tremendous growth in U.S. energy production "will require greater anticipation and preparation for emerging risks to public safety. These forward-looking rules will help ensure pipeline operators invest in continuous improvements to pipeline safety and integrity management."