Updates / Newsletters

Pipeline Safety Update - Issue No. 118

December 8, 2016

Elaine Chao Selected as the Next Secretary of Transportation

President-elect Donald Trump has announced that he intends to nominate Ms. Elaine Chao to serve as the Secretary of Transportation.  Ms. Chao previously served as Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush and Deputy Secretary of Transportation under President George H.W. Bush.  Ms. Chao also is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  Ms. Chao must be confirmed by the Senate, a process that will begin once Congress reconvenes on January 3.

North Dakota Industrial Commission’s Proposed Safety Rules for Underground Crude Oil and Produced Water Gathering Lines Are Approved

On December 5, the North Dakota Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee approved new rules that were adopted by the North Dakota Industrial Commission on June 29 for certain underground gathering pipelines capable of transferring crude oil or produced water from oil and gas production facilities.  The new rules establish bonding and notification requirements and a wide range of safety requirements addressing design, construction, inspection, geographic information system locational data, operations, leak detection, spill response, corrosion control, pipeline integrity, repairs, and abandonment.  The new rule also establishes requirements for berms around facilities.  The rule becomes effective January 1, 2017.

PHMSA Rulemakings UpdateThe tables below summarize the status of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) rulemakings as reported in the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) November Significant Rulemaking Report and by the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Fall 2016 Unified Regulatory Agenda.  Revisions appear in bold.

Note that OIRA estimates several pending final rules to be issued by the end of 2016 and that two proposed rules have estimated publication dates that have already passed.  In addition, for the first time DOT provides an estimated publication date for a final rule addressing the Safety of Gas Transmission and Gathering Pipelines.

Pending Final Rules


DOT Estimated Submission to OMB*

DOT Estimated Publication

OIRA Estimated Publication 

Enhanced Emergency Order Procedures  Not listed by DOT  Not listed by DOT  No Estimate Provided
Inflation Adjustment of Maximum Civil Penalties   Not listed by DOT  Not listed by DOT  February 2017

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

Not listed by DOT

Not listed by DOT

December 2016 

Plastic Pipe Rule

Not listed by DOT  Not listed by DOT  December 2016

Safety of Gas Transmission and Gathering Pipelines

August 29, 2017  December 11, 2017 Not Listed 

Safety of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

October 18, 2016
December 30, 2016   December 2016

Underground Storage Facilities (interim final rule) 

October 18, 2016 
December 30, 2016   December 2016


Pending Notices of Proposed Rulemaking


DOT Estimated Submission to OMB*

DOT Estimated Publication 

OIRA Estimated Publication 

Standards Update Rule – 2015 and Beyond (formerly the “Periodic Updates of Regulatory References to Technical Standards and Miscellaneous Amendments”)  Not listed by DOT  Not listed by DOT November 2016

State Pipeline Safety Program Certification

Not listed by DOT

Not listed by DOT

November 2016

Valve Installation and Minimum Rupture Detection Standards

 January 24, 2017  May 3, 2017 May 2017 


*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.   


PHMSA issues advisory bulletin addressing safeguarding and securing pipeline facilitiesOn December 9 PHMSA expects to publish an advisory bulletin reminding pipeline operators of the importance of safeguarding and securing pipeline facilities and monitoring SCADA systems for abnormal operations or indications of unauthorized access or interference with pipeline operations.  Issued in response to the October incidents involving individuals illegally entering valve siteson four pipelines and closing valves, the advisory bulletin encourages pipeline operators to implement protective measures including cultivating strong relationships with local law enforcement; increasing the frequency of ROW security patrols and deploying new patrolling technologies, such as unmanned aerial systems if permitted; reviewing valve and facility protection measures; and protecting SCADA systems. 

PHMSA announces first public meeting of the Voluntary Information-Sharing System Working Group.  On November 28, PHMSA announced that on December 19, it will convene the first public meeting of the newly created Voluntary Information-Sharing System (VIS) Working Group. Section 10 of the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act (PIPES) of 2016 directed PHMSA to convene the VIS Working Group to encourage collaborative efforts to improve analyses of integrity risk.  The VIS Working Group will consider sharing of dig verification data; advanced pipeline inspection technologies and exchanging inspection information; sharing in-line inspection data and protecting proprietary data; and barriers to sharing information.  The meeting will be held in Arlington, Virginia, and will not be webcast. 

PHMSA reschedules meeting of the Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee.  PHMSA has rescheduled the meeting of the Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee for January 11-12, 2017.  The GPAC will discuss PHMSA’s proposed rule for onshore gas transmission and gathering pipelines, published April 8, 2016.  The meeting previously was scheduled for December 7-8, 2016. 

PHMSA appoints new members to the Pipeline Advisory Committees. On December 6, PHMSA announced the appointments of several new members to its Gas and Liquid Pipeline Advisory Committees, which advise and provide peer review to PHMSA on proposed safety standards and risk assessments.  The new appointees include individuals from state and federal government and members of the public.


NTSB releases 2017-2018 Most Wanted List.  On November 14, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its Most Wanted List for 2017-2018, presenting the NTSB’s advocacy priorities.  The NTSB does not identify pipeline safety, but initiatives such as reducing fatigue-related accidents and eliminating alcohol and drug impairment, are relevant to pipeline operators. 

DOT Office of Inspector General includes lack of criminal prosecution of pipeline safety violations on list of Top Management Challenges for 2017.  On November 15, the DOT Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its report on the DOT’s top management challenges.  Notably, the report observes that, despite numerous pipeline accidents related to violations of pipeline safety regulations, successful criminal prosecutions are rare.  The report suggests that lowering the standard for establishing criminal liability under the Pipeline Safety Act from “knowing and willful” to “reckless” would increase the number of successful criminal prosecutions and deter future pipeline incidents.  The report also finds that PHMSA lacks sufficient processes, oversight and project management to address in a timely fashion statutory mandates and recommendations from the NTSB, Government Accountability Office, and OIG.  OIG notes that PHMSA has implemented organizational changes to address identified areas for improvement.  


NASFM updates its online Pipeline Emergency Response TrainingThe National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) has updated its free online training portal for first responders.  The program is based on the NASFM Pipeline Emergencies Program, offering three different levels of self-paced online courses to instruct first responders on how to respond to a pipeline emergency.



On November 1, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control issued a proposed regulation for aboveground storage tanks.  The proposed changes would update definitions to clarify technical requirements and would clarify which version of industry-based standards published by the American Petroleum Institute and other trade associations are applicable to regulated aboveground storage tanks.  The proposed changes also would add minimum distances for locating new aboveground storage tanks near private and public wells and address technical requirements associated with release reporting and corrective action needed when releases from aboveground storage tanks occur.


On November 4, the Illinois Commerce Commission released proposed changes to its pipeline safety regulations to incorporate by reference the October 1, 2016 version of the Federal pipeline safety regulations and add the National Pipeline Mapping System reporting requirement in 49 C.F.R. § 191.29 to the Illinois code.


In November, the Michigan 21st Century Infrastructure Commission released a final report assessing Michigan’s infrastructure.  The report states that Michigan has approximately 6,700 miles of outdated, “at risk” natural gas pipeline infrastructure that needs to be replaced.  Only 669 miles have been replaced since the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) approved accelerated main replacement programs for utilities in 2011.  The report recommends that the MSPC accelerate plans to replace at-risk distribution piping more quickly than the current 25 to 30 year window, and that replacements be coordinated with local investment in other infrastructure.



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