Updates / Newsletters

Pipeline Safety Update - Issue No. 112

September 1, 2016

PHMSA Issues Advisory Bulletin to Clarify Regulatory Requirements for Active and Abandoned Pipelines

On August 16, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued an advisory bulletin to clarify the regulatory requirements applicable to active or abandoned pipelines.  The advisory bulletin stated that a gas or hazardous liquid pipeline is either active, and therefore subject to all applicable safety regulations in Part 192 or 195, or abandoned, i.e., permanently removed from service and not subject to Part 192 or 195.  The advisory stated that the pipeline safety regulations do not recognize an “idle,” “inactive,” or “decommissioned” status.  PHMSA indicated, however, that a pipeline purged of product presents different risks and may warrant different regulatory treatment.  In particular, deferral of certain activities on purged but active pipelines may be acceptable and the agency is considering proposing procedures that would address how owners and operators would notify regulators of such pipelines.  In the interim, owners and operators should coordinate deferred activities with regulators in advance.

Van Ness Feldman has prepared an overview of the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016, and a redline showing how the PIPES Act modified the legislative text of the pipeline safety laws.  For copies, contact Susan Olenchuk at SAM@vnf.com or Bryn Karaus at BSK@vnf.com

PHMSA Rulemakings UpdateThe tables below summarize the status of PHMSA’s rulemakings as reported in the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) August Significant Rulemaking Report and by OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Spring 2016 Unified Regulatory Agenda.  Revised dates appear in bold.

Pending Final Rules


DOT Estimated Submission to OMB*

DOT Estimated Publication

OIRA Estimated Publication 

Expanding the Use of Excess Flow Valves in Gas Distribution Systems to Applications Other than Single-Family Residences

September 21, 2016

February 1, 2017

January 2017

Operator Qualification, Cost Recovery, Accident and Incident Notification, and Other Pipeline Safety Proposed Changes

Not listed by DOT

Not listed by DOT

October 2016 

Plastic Pipe Rule

Not listed by DOT  Not listed by DOT  October 2016

Safety of Gas Transmission and Gathering Pipelines

Information Not Available  Information Not Available    Information Not Available 

Safety of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

 September 12, 2016 December 20, 2016   October 2016

Underground Storage Facilities (interim final rule) 

October 12, 2016  January 23, 2017   August 2016


Pending Notices of Proposed Rulemaking


DOT Estimated Submission to OMB*

DOT Estimated Publication 

OIRA Estimated Publication 

Periodic Updates of Regulatory References to Technical Standards and Miscellaneous Amendments  Not listed by DOT  Not listed by DOT July 2016

State Pipeline Safety Program Certification

Not listed by DOT

Not listed by DOT

August 2016

Valve Installation and Minimum Rupture Detection Standards

 January 24, 2017  May 3, 2017 September 2016 


*Under Executive Order (EO) 12866, OMB reviews proposed significant rules to ensure they are consistent with applicable law, the President’s priorities, and the principles set forth in the EO, and to ensure the proposals do not conflict with another agency’s policies or actions.  OMB also analyzes the cost-benefit analyses in support of the proposals.  While the EO sets out deadlines for OMB evaluation, review periods are often extended.   


New FAA procedures will enable use of drones for inspection and monitoring of pipelines.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently issued a final rule to regulate the commercial use of small unmanned aircraft or drones.  In addition, Congress has instructed the FAA to develop procedures to exempt monitoring and inspection of critical infrastructure, such as pipelines, from any provisions in the final rule that could prevent using drones for such purposes.  Van Ness Feldman recently issued an Alert providing an overview of the requirements and steps a pipeline operator must follow to operate drones for monitoring and inspection operations.


DOT and PHMSA request dismissal of NWF’s lawsuits challenging approval of oil spill response plans.  On August 22, DOT and PHMSA filed a response opposing motions for summary judgment filed by the National Wildlife Federation in separate pending lawsuits, that have (1) alleged that the Secretary of Transportation violated the Clean Water Act by failing to review and approve oil spill response plans, and (2) challenged PHMSA’s approval of an oil spill response plan submitted by Enbridge for its Line 5, which transports oil under the Straits of Mackinac.  DOT and PHMSA argued that NWF’s suit is now moot because DOT has ratified PHMSA’s approval and that NWF lacks standing.  DOT and PHMSA also filed motions for summary judgment requesting that the cases be dismissed.


API and AOPL release annual pipeline reportOn August 18, the American Petroleum Institute and the Association of Oil Pipe Lines released their annual report and strategic plan. The report summarizes pipeline safety principles, analyzes industry safety records, and outlines efforts liquid pipeline operators are making to advance technologies and implement innovative approaches to inspecting, monitoring, and managing pipeline safety programs.



CPUC Fines PG&E $25.6 million for record-keeping violations.  On August 26, the CPUC issued a decision finding that Pacific Gas & Electric Company failed to maintain accurate records of its natural gas distribution system and imposing a fine of $25.6 million.  The decision closes an investigation initiated in 2014 in response to six incidents attributed to inaccurate mapping of facilities or incorrect recording of facility specifications.  The CPUC increased the fine proposed by the administrative law judge by $1.3 million.


To download a full text PDF, which includes Dates of Interest, upcoming PHMSA State Seminars, and State Specific Association Meetings, please click here.


Susan A. Olenchuk
Washington, DC
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Dates of Interest

January 2022
19 API Virtual Pipeline Facilities Integrity Workshop
31-2/4 GSP Pipeline Pigging and Integrity Management Conference, Houston, TX
February 2022
14 Comments due on ICA, Gas and Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Program Performance Report
22-26 PLCA 74th Annual Convention, Phoenix, AZ
25 Comments due on Interim Final Rule Amending USA Definition
March 2022
1-3 Global Excavation Safety Conference and Expo, Phoenix, AZ
13-16 SGA Spring Gas Conference, Columbia, SC
25-30 APCA Annual Convention, Scottsdale, AZ
29-31 PRCI The Technology for Future and Ageing Pipelines Conference, Virtual
April 2022
4-6 MEA Gas Ops Roundtable, Omaha, NE
4-8 Common Ground Alliance Conference & Expo, Anaheim, CA
19-20 NGA Spring Operations Conference, Saratoga Springs, NY

State-Specific Association Meetings

January 2022
11 OGA Codes and Regulations Meeting, Virtual
31-2/2 Louisiana Damage Prevention Summit, Baton Rouge, LA
February 2022
7-10 Nebraska Pipeline Safety Seminar, Kearney, NE
23-24 MNGA Annual Tradeshow, Tupelo, MS
March 2022
22-23 KGA Annual Expo, Lexington, KY