On December 27, 2020, President Trump signed the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2020 into law. This law includes mandates for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to execute actions within the agency and promulgate new regulations to enhance pipeline safety. Key topics include publishing of the pending gas gathering final rule and other outstanding regulatory mandates, methane emissions reductions, and additional distribution system requirements in response to the Merrimack Valley Incident of 2018.

For each of the items listed below PHMSA is tasked with completing the line item as written or developing new regulations, processes, or guidance to satisfy the PIPES Act in the stated timeframe. Though the timeframes are included under the law, the actual implementation dates have been known to extend beyond the original timeframe for past rulemakings. Elemental will monitor PHMSA’s website and the Federal Register to alert you as to the latest implementation activities associated with this rule. The full text of changes can be found here:

  • Review of inspector training program
  • Workforce assessment plan for PHMSA staffing
  • New technology testing on pipeline ROWs – operators must have a Safety Management System to participate
  • PHMSA to perform a study on pipeline safety testing enhancement
  • 30-day updates on outstanding mandates
  • Self-disclosure clause – allows operators to self-identify, report, and correct compliance issues for reduced penalties
  • Updates to resolving violations by consent orders
  • Regulatory updates to include definitions and requirements for idled pipelines into gas and liquid regulations (within 2 years)
  •  LNG facility project reviews
  •  Update LNG requirements to provide a risk-based regulatory approach and include more detailed O&M and safety standards (within 3 years)
  •  Establish a National Center of Excellence for Liquified Natural Gas Safety and Training near the Gulf of Mexico (within 2 years)
  • Implement proposed gas gathering rule (within 90 days)
  • Evaluate availability and extent of gas gathering pipeline data (within 1 year)
  • Methane emission reduction initiative:

– Promulgate new requirements for gas pipeline leak detection and repair for distribution, transmission, and regulated gathering lines (within 1 year)
– Review of gas pipeline leak detection programs every 5 years (within 2 years)
– A study on further minimizing gas releases from pipelines (within 1 year) and an additional rulemaking within 180 days thereafter to respond to findings

  • Review of comments to class location change NPRM and issues raised during the 2016 report to
    congress, “Evaluation of Expanding Pipeline Integrity Management Beyond High-Consequence
    Areas and Whether Such Expansion Would Mitigate the Need for Gas Pipeline Class Location
    Requirements”; (within 180 days)
  • Whistleblower protection
  • Use of the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, CO for research and development
  •  Improve auditing of drug and alcohol programs
  • Inclusion of the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act, Merrimack Valley Incident response focusing on distribution systems

– Updated to DIMP including risk evaluations and regulatory review every 5 years (within 2 years)
– Updates to distribution Emergency Response Plans (within 2 years)
– Updates to distribution O&M Manuals (within 2 years)
– Report and recommendations of further adoption on distribution company implementation of SMS (within 3 years)
– New requirements for traceable, reliable, and complete records for distribution systems (within 2 years)
– Requirement for proof of at least one qualified person to monitor pressures and react to over pressurization situations on distribution systems (within 180 days)
– Regulations requiring assessment of each district regulator station (within 1 year)

For more information on these pipeline safety rulemakings and how they may affect your operations, contact Elemental Compliance. Stay tuned to Elemental Compliance’s LinkedIn page and Blog for further regulatory updates.

For updates on the above topics and other state and federal regulatory initiatives, follow Elemental Compliance on LinkedIn, or watch for our blogs at www.ElementalCompliance.com.