Updates / Newsletters

Pipeline Safety Update - Issue No. 128

August 7, 2017

Drue Pearce Named PHMSA Deputy Administrator

Ms. Drue Pearce was named the Deputy Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) effective August 7.  Ms. Pearce joins PHMSA from private practice.  She previously served for 17 years in the Alaska Legislature, including two terms as the Senate President.  During the administration of George W. Bush, she served at the Senior Advisor to Department of Interior Secretaries Gale Norton and Dirk Kempthorne, advising primarily on Alaska Affairs.  She was the first Federal Coordinator in the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Alaska Natural Gas Transportation System Projects.  Ms. Pearce also served on PHMSA’s Technical Hazardous Pipeline Safety Standards Committee, one of two technical committees that advise PHMSA on the development of pipeline safety standards.  Most recently, Ms. Pearce was in private practice. 

PHMSA Rulemakings UpdateIn July, the Office of Management & Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) released an updated Unified Regulatory Agenda providing information on regulations under development by federal agencies.  The agenda appears in two principal parts:  “Current Agenda Agency Regulatory Entries for Active Actions” and “Current Long Term Actions,” on which regulatory action within 12 months is not expected.

The tables below summarize the status of rulemakings pending before the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) as reflected in the Unified Regulatory Agenda.  The Department of Transportation (DOT) has not released a Significant Rulemaking Report since December 2016 as the agency evaluates rulemakings in accordance with Executive Orders 13771 and 13777.  DOT’s previous Significant Rulemaking Reports are available here

Pending Final Rules


OIRA Estimated Publication

Previous OIRA Estimated Publication

Enhanced Emergency Order Procedures (Interim Final Rule issued October 2016) September 2017  No Estimate Provided
Plastic Pipe Rule (NPRM issued May 2015 December 2017
December 2016
Safety of Gas Transmission and Gathering Pipelines (NPRM issued April 2016) June 2018 Not listed
Safety of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines (NPRM issued October 2015) December 2017 Advanced copy released January 13; withdrawn from Federal Register publication January 24
Underground Natural Gas Storage Facilities (Interim Final Rule issued December 2016)   January 2018 Not listed 


Pending Notices of Proposed Rulemaking


OIRA Estimated Publication

Previous OIRA Estimated Publication 

Standards Update Rule – 2015 and Beyond (formerly the “Periodic Updates of Regulatory References to Technical Standards and Miscellaneous Amendments) September 2017 November 2016
State Pipeline Safety Program Certification Not listed November 2016
Valve Installation and Minimum Rupture Detection Standards  September 2017 May 2017


Van Ness Feldman offers pipeline safety seminars tailored to your company, including for continuing legal education credit.  Contact Susan Olenchuk or Bryn Karaus for more information.


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.


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.


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.



The initial regulations of Mississippi Underground Facilities Damage Prevention Board became effective on July 22, 2017.  On July 26, 2017 the Mississippi Underground Facilities Damage Prevention Board proposed regulations to define “routine maintenance.”  Comments on the proposal are due August 22, and an oral proceeding is scheduled for August 23.


On June 13, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission finalized a rule amending regulations pertaining to petroleum storage tanks. The rule becomes effective on September 11.


On July 13, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission issued permanent rules incorporating by reference, subject to certain exceptions, the latest versions of PHMSA’s gas pipeline regulations that were in effect on March 6, 2015:  49 C.F.R. Parts 191, 192, 193, 195, 198, and 199.  The regulatory text appears to contain an error regarding the date of the version of the federal regulations adopted for natural gas pipelines in one location, but the correct date appears to be March 6, 2015.  The new rules become effective August 13, 2017.


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