By Frank Vlossak
On March 17, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) released the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) titled “Pipeline Safety: Safety of Gas Transmission and Gathering Pipelines”. The Obama Administration has been developing this significant rulemaking over the last several years. It will establish new requirements for: how operators inspect natural gas transmission pipelines, including in-line inspections (ILI); what actions they take in response to those inspections; and how they verify the maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) of pipelines. In developing the MAOP requirements, PHMSA is implementing Section 23(a) of the “Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Job Creation Act of 2011” (P.L. 112-90), which directed the agency to implement requirements for verifying the MAOP for older “grandfathered” natural gas pipelines. On August 7, 2013, PHMSA held a “Public Workshop on Integrity Verification Process”, which was one of the first steps in developing the MAOP provisions included in this proposed rule. The NPRM imposes new regulatory requirements on certain gas gathering lines, and includes other new requirements that implement provisions of the “Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act.”
PHMSA began the process of developing this NPRM in 2011, with publication of an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) titled “Pipeline Safety: Safety of Gas Transmission Pipelines”. This gas pipeline safety NPRM parallels the “Safety of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines” NPRM, which PHMSA published on October 13, 2015.
Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, it will be subject to a 60-day public comment period. It is also expected that PHMSA will convene its Gas Pipeline Technical Advisory Committee to provide input which will be considered in developing the final rule. Following the comment period and meeting of the Gas Pipeline Technical Advisory Committee, it will likely take PHMSA six months or more to draft and promulgate the final rule.