UPDATES FROM OTHER AGENCIES
GAO releases report recommending modifications to PHMSA’s use of data in establishing and validating inspection priorities. On August 3, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report, required by Section 21 of the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016, describing how PHMSA uses pipeline and corrosion data in the agency’s Risk Ranking Index Model which uses pipeline integrity threats to determine how often PHMSA inspects pipeline systems. GAO found that PHMSA did not document the rationale or justifications for key decisions regarding the threats selected for the model, how they are weighted, or thresholds for establishing risk tiers for inspected pipeline segments. GAO also found that PHMSA has not used data to assess the overall effectiveness of the model and cannot demonstrate the model’s effectiveness.
GAO recommends that the Secretary of Transportation direct PHMSA to (1) document decisions and underlying assumptions for the model’s design, including the data and information analyzed in determining the model’s components and (2) implement a data-driven process to review and assess the model’s effectiveness in prioritizing pipelines for inspection.
Finally, GAO noted that, while OMB did not approve PHMSA’s June 2016 proposal to expand the amount of information gathered for the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS), PHMSA plans to propose a revision to the NPMS data collection before the current data collection authorization expires in 2020.
DOT OIG completes audit of PHMSA’s Technical Assistance Grant program
. On July 19, the DOT Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued an audit report
, required by the PIPES Act of 2016, regarding PHMSA’s Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) program, which provides funds to improve the safety of communities located near pipeline facilities. The Pipeline Safety Act prohibits grant recipients from using the funding for lobbying, direct support for litigation, or direct advocacy for or against a pipeline construction project. OIG found that PHMSA has reasonable non-final internal controls for awarding and overseeing TAG funding, but does not implement them consistently to ensure that grant funds are not used for prohibited purposes. OIG offered several recommendations to improve PHMSA’s award and oversight processes for the TAG program.
UPDATES FROM CONGRESS
Members of Congress request assessment of current security protections for pipelines. On July 18, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee requested that the GAO and Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which has authority for pipeline security including cybersecurity, provide an assessment of current cyber and physical security protections for natural gas, oil, and hazardous liquid pipelines and associated infrastructure. Senator Cantwell and Congressman Pallone noted the increasing interdependence of electric and natural gas infrastructure and the evolving nature of cyber threats from criminal and foreign state actors.
UPDATES FROM INUSTRY
INGAA affirms commitment to responsible pipeline construction. On July 26, the Board of Directors of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America formally adopted INGAA’s “Commitment to Responsible Pipeline Construction,” endorsing the following core principles: 1) ensuring safe and reliable pipeline construction; 2) caring for communities and landowners; 3) preserving environmental resources; and 4) respecting regulations.
PAPA releases Summer 2017 newsletter.
The Pipeline Association for Public Awareness
(PAPA) released its Summer 2017 newsletter
containing information about pipeline safety and awareness for public officials. PAPA is an organization that promotes communication and cooperation with local organizations to enhance public safety, improve emergency preparedness, protect the environment and prevent property and facility damage.