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PHMSA proposes new safety requirements for gas distribution pipelines

Published by , Senior Editor
World Pipelines,

The US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to strengthen safety requirements for millions of miles of gas distribution pipelines.

These proposed changes aim to improve safety and mitigate risk through the improvement of emergency response plans, integrity management plans, operation manuals and more. This proposal comes after the tragic Merrimack Valley incident, which injured dozens and resulted in one fatality.

“Every day, millions of miles of gas distribution pipelines deliver energy to tens of millions of Americans, helping heat homes and power businesses,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “But as the tragic death of Leonel Rondon in 2018 reminded us, more must be done to ensure the safety of those pipelines – which is why we are announcing a new proposed rule to strengthen pipeline safety regulations and protect the public.

This NPRM implements Congressionally mandated revisions from the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act – enacted as part of the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2020 as well as to address National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations. Major pieces of the proposal include:

  • Improving construction procedures designed to minimise the risk of incidents caused by system over-pressurisation.
  • Updating Distribution Integrity Management Programs to cover and prepare for over-pressurisation incidents.
  • Requiring new regulator stations to be designed with secondary pressure relief valves and remote gas monitoring, to better prepare gas distribution systems to avoid over pressurisations, and limit damage during incidents.
  • Strengthening emergency response plans for gas pipeline emergencies, including requirements for operators to contact local emergency responders and keep customers and the affected public informed of what to do in the event of an emergency.

“This proposal incorporates lessons from the 2018 Merrimack Valley tragedy to help ensure something like that never happens again,” said PHMSA Deputy Administrator Tristan Brown. “These changes will protect communities and the environment, as well as lower energy costs for consumers.”

This rule also builds on other national and international actions advanced by Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration to reduce methane emissions – a greenhouse gas with more than 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. As part of the Administration’s US Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan and President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, PHMSA is also directing funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) to modernise municipally and community-owned natural gas distribution pipes. Earlier this year, PHMSA announced the first US$196 million from the nearly US$1 billion Natural Gas Distribution Infrastructure Safety and Modernisation grant programme – an additional US$400 million in awards to communities are expected later this year.

The full-text NPRM has been transmitted to the Federal Register. A publication date will be provided when it becomes available along with an opportunity to provide public comment.



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US pipeline news PHMSA pipeline news FERC and USDOT news