PHMSA Now Accepting Proposals for Research Awards Related to Pipeline Safety

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is accepting proposals for awards on research focused on pipeline threat prevention, pipeline leak detection, pipeline anomaly detection, underground natural gas storage, and liquefied natural gas.

In its announcement today, PHMSA stated that its Pipeline Safety Research and Development Program awards funding to eligible entities to stimulate research into, and promote commercialization of, new technologies that can help protect people, property, and the environment from pipeline failures while keeping the energy sector operating uninterrupted.

Those who may participate include universities and other academic groups, individuals, profit and non-profit organizations, states, U.S. territories and possessions, American Indian tribes, and local governments.

Visit PHMSA's main site for more information on how to submit a proposal.

Source:
PHMSA

PHMSA Releases All-New Mobile App for Viewing Federal Regulations for Pipeline Safety

PHMSA on Thursday released a new online Code of Federal Regulations mobile application in its effort to continuously improve safety and public access to latest transportation regulations, including pipeline safety.

The mobile app is designed to be a simpler version of the web-based application that was released to the public in March, 2016. It provides the first-ever mobile access to search, view, and navigate PHMSA's Hazardous Materials Regulations for the classifying, handling, and packaging of materials by highway, rail, aircraft, and vessel.

The app also provides mobile access to PHMSA's Pipeline Safety Regulations that discuss federal minimum safety standards for the design, construction, operation and maintenance, and spill response planning for pipeline and liquified natural gas facilities involved in the transportation of natural gas and hazardous liquids within the U.S.

Users can also navigate regulations at the paragraph level, which is a unique feature of the mobile app. It is available for download in both the Google Play Store and iTunes.

Source:
PHMSA

Texas Oil, Gas Regulator Receives Significant Increase in Budget

Texas' oil and gas regulator just received a significant increase in funding from the Legislature, which will boost the commission's well plugging, pipeline and well inspection programs.

Due to the recent oil bust, the Railroad Commission of Texas cut its budget by $1.3 million each month over the past year as well as froze hiring so it could focus on funding for permitting and inspecting wells. Abandoned well sites significantly increased during the downturn, posing a problem for the commission as they struggled to inspect and plug them with such a funding deficit.

At a recent legislation session, however, the commission received a 46 percent increase in its budget to $256 million.

The commission plans to use most of the funding increases toward programs for well plugging, oil field cleanup, and pipeline safety. Much of it will also go toward filling job positions and digitizing decades of oil and gas records.

The commission, which is responsible for plugging abandoned oil and gas wells, monitoring oil and gas operations, overseeing pipelines, and regulating the state's gas utilities, now has the money it needs to carry out its basic functions and fill funding shortfalls for other responsibilities like conducting a data backup and increasing salaries.

Source:
Fuel Fix

PHMSA Seeks to Fill Vacancies on its Gas and Liquid Pipeline Advisory Committees

PHMSA is seeking to fill vacancies on its Gas and Liquid Pipeline Advisory Committees and is requesting nominations, the agency announced on Tuesday.

PHMSA is looking for executive-level leadership from the federal government and industry to fill roles in both committees, which work to review PHMSA's gas or liquid regulatory initiatives to determine their technical feasibility, reasonableness, cost-effectiveness, and practicability.

Both the gas pipeline advisory committee (GPAC) and the liquid pipeline advisory committee (LPAC) consist of 15 members with equal representation from the government, industry, and public.

Members typically serve three-year terms but may be reappointed in order to continue to review proposals. Members are not compensated.

Those nominated to fill the vacant roles must have experience in safety regulations applicable to pipeline transportation or pipeline facility operations or they must be qualified by training, experience, or knowledge in at least one applicable field of engineering to evaluate pipeline safety standards.

PHMSA will accept nominations submitted to the Federal Register until July 5.

Source:
PHMSA

PHMSA Introduces Crucial Role, Goals of its Pipeline Inspector Training Center

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on Tuesday posted an article introducing readers to the crucial role its pipeline inspector training center in Oklahoma City has on the agency's safety mission.

Called A Closer Look: PHMA's Pipeline Inspector Training Center, the article describes the short-term and long-term goals of its 45-year-old training center that has evolved from offering 12 resident courses and eight seminars to now offering 58 courses and training more than 4,000 federal and state pipeline inspectors each year.

The training center's short-term and long-term goals focus on three key areas that will ensure students receive the "highest quality training possible," according to the article. These three key areas include "increased emphasis on hands-on learning, prioritization of full-time staff development, and attaining accreditations that may help the center and PHMSA attract students and recent college graduates into the safety field."

Some of the most popular courses taken at the center include Safety Evaluation of Gas Pipeline Systems, Safety Evaluation of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines, Gas Pressure Regulation and Overpressure Protection, Pipeline Failure Investigation Techniques, and Corrosion Control of Pipeline Systems.

Because federal and state pipeline safety inspectors play such important roles in maintaining pipeline safety, the training center continuously strives to offer the upmost proper training and experience for those attending so that trainees may help PMHSA carry out their shared mission of safety.

To learn more about the training center and its current course offerings, you can contact PHMSA's Pipeline Inspector Training and Qualifications Division.

Source:
PHMSA

PHMSA Holds First Meeting of the New Pipeline Safety VIS Working Group

PHMSA is holding its first public meeting of the newly-created pipeline safety Voluntary Information-Sharing System (VIS) Working Group on December 19, 2016 in the Washington, D.C. area.

The VIS Working Group is a committee recently formed by PHMSA that will help the Secretary of Transportation make decisions relating to pipeline safety, specifically on the pros and cons of an information-sharing system for pipeline owners and operators. It will also provide advice on how to encourage the exchange of pipeline inspection information and how to best protect proprietary and security-sensitive information.

“The new VIS Working Group is not just about sharing data; it’s about collaborating across industry and government to reach the next level of pipeline safety. Arming operators with a structure to share data and best practices to inform their safety regimes is a priority for pipeline safety and this group will be critical in developing those recommendations,” said PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez according to the PHMSA statement.

Read more about the specifics of the VIS Working Group in the Federal Register notice.

Source:
PHMSA

PHMSA Announces Interim Final Rule that Expands Agency Authority to Issue Pipeline Emergency Orders

PHMSA issued on Monday an Interim Final Rule (IFR)* that expands the agency’s authority to address unsafe pipeline conditions or practices that could bring harm to lives or the environment.

According to PHMSA’s statement, The IFR allows the agency to impose emergency restrictions, prohibitions, and safety measures on owners or operators of pipeline systems in order to address safety concerns affecting multiple owners or operators.

“The new regulations carry out DOT’s enhanced authority to compel industry to take immediate action to address problems that could put people, property, or the environment at risk,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The IFR is effective immediately after it is published on the Federal Register. It has been transmitted to the site and will be published in 7 to 10 days. The public will have 60 days after publication to comment.

*An Interim Final Rule is a rule adopted without prior public input that is made effective immediately.

Source:
PHMSA

PHMSA Awards $900,000 to Universities to Assist in Pipeline Safety Research

PHMSA on Monday announced its provision of $900,000 total to three higher educational institutions as part of its Competitive Academic Agreement Program (CAAP) for pipeline safety research.

The award will be distributed to Iowa State University, West Virginia University, and North Dakota State University to assist in their respective research projects that could potentially prevent pipeline corrosion.

According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox, CAAP targets research that is focused on technological improvements for pipeline challenges and developments for new innovation to solve pipeline safety concerns.

The CAAP initiative was founded in 2013 and has contributed more than $3.9 million to pipeline research.

Source:
PHMSA

Tennessee County Plans Simulated Oil Spill to Test Emergency Preparedness

tennessee county plans simulated oil spill to test emergency preparedness

A county in Tennessee plans to hold a disaster preparedness exercise on Friday that will call into practice the appropriate steps to quickly and safely handle an oil spill.

Shelby County’s Office of Preparedness will put together a simulated oil spill that is set to occur in downtown Memphis and will involve several agencies in the call-to-action.

The drill involves a simulated oil spill that will threaten the Wolf River Chute and damage the Canadian National North Rail Yard. 

Agencies included in the drill are the Shelby County Office of Preparedness, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security-Infrastructure Protection, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, and the Memphis fire and police departments.

Source:
PennEnergy

Arkansas Officials Celebrate Magellan Pipeline Opening

Arkansas officials on Wednesday celebrated the opening of a new pipeline that will transport gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel into the state, increasing energy in the state and helping with economic development.

The $200 million, 210-mile Magellan Midstream Partners pipeline system runs from Fort Smith to Little Rock, Arkansas and has a capacity of 75,000 barrels a day. It is connected to refineries in Oklahoma, Kansas, and the Gulf Coast.

According to Magellan’s President and CEO Michael Mears, the pipeline system has several safety features to prevent spills, such as the use of devices and real-time monitoring to watch for any corrosion, leaks, or other defects.

"Obviously, safety is of paramount importance to the pipeline industry," Mears said at the opening event of the pipeline. "The new construction on this pipeline met all the standards obviously, but we take it to the next level."

Source:
Houston Chronicle

Judge Cuts Proposed Fine Against PG&E for California Pipeline Blast

A judge has tremendously cut a $562 million fine against Pacific Gas & Electric Company in a criminal case alleging the company violated federal pipeline safety regulations prior to a disastrous natural gas explosion in California and then obstructed investigators.

With no explanation given, the U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson issued the order on Tuesday. The prosecutors also offered no explanation as to why they decided to seek a much lower fine against the utility after more than a month of testimony and several days into jury deliberations.

Jurors are still deciding whether PG&E is guilty of multiple charges filed following the explosion in 2010 that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno.

If found guilty, the utility faces a $6-million fine as opposed to $562 million for 11 counts of pipeline safety violations and obstructing investigators after the explosion.

Robert Weisberg, criminal law professor at Stanford University, suggested that prosecutors may be concerned that the jurors would think the original fine was too much money and too much of the jurors’ time to sit through a possible penalty phase, thus would side with the gas utility out of anger toward the prosecutors.

Brandon Garrett, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law stated that the original fine against PG&E was meant to act as a deterrent and that the revised proposed fine was a “massive and unexplained discount” given by the prosecutors.

"Obviously, if a company does not have to pay a fine that is larger than its gains, then its crime becomes profitable," Garrett said.

Source:
ABC News

PHMSA Awards $1.5 Million in Grants to States for Damage Prevention Programs

phmsa-awards-1.5-million-in-grants-to-states-for-damage-prevention-programs-pipeline-excavation

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on Thursday announced nearly $1.5 million in grants to 18 states to support pipeline damage prevention.

These safety grants are awarded annually and are used to strengthen a state’s efforts in addressing pipeline failures attributed to activities like excavation, a leading cause of pipeline accidents resulting in injury or fatality. The grants are also used to help states establish needed prevention programs.

According to the PHMSA announcement, excavation damage has resulted in over 33 human fatalities, 144 injuries, and over $249 million in property damage nationwide since 2006. The safety grants allow states to continue implementing the nine elements of an effective damage prevention program, outlined in the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement and Safety Act of 2006.

PHMSA awards damage prevention grants to state authorities where its governor has deemed the authority to be an eligible recipient. Applications are reviewed by PHMSA to determine its relevance to the nine elements of an effective damage prevention program, among other criteria, before the administration grants the recipient an amount of up to $100,000.

To view the 2016 damage prevention grant award recipients, click here.

Source:
PHMSA

Washington State Regulators Propose a $4 Million Penalty to Cascade Natural Gas Corporation

washington-state-regulators-propose-4-million-penalty-against-cascade-natural-gas-corporation-pipeline

Washington state pipeline safety regulators on Tuesday filed a complaint against Cascade Natural Gas Corporation recommending penalties for violating state and federal pipeline safety regulations.

The complaint was filed as a result of a staff investigation that revealed the company’s failure to provide required documentation for nearly 40 percent of its high-pressure pipelines in Washington.

The staff requests that the commission impose the maximum penalty of $4 million. The filed complaint will be scheduled for a hearing before the three-member commission, which is not bound by the staff’s recommendation.

The staff wrote in an investigation report that “Cascade has demonstrated lax attitude towards compliance that exposes the public to an unacceptable level of risk.”

During three inspections at Cascade in 2013, the company was not able to produce all Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure (MAOP) documents requested by pipeline safety inspectors, a requirement set after the 2010 San Bruno explosion when a contributing factor in the explosion was found to be failure of maintaining records necessary to establish and confirm MAOP.

The commission then required that Cascade develop a comprehensive MAOP compliance plan by August 12, 2015. Cascade failed to meet this deadline and submitted its plan in January of 2016, which was then rejected by the commission determining it did not meet the correct requirements. Cascade sent in a revised compliance plan in April of 2016, and it is still under review.

The Kennewick-based Cascade Natural Gas Corporation serves more than 272,000 customers in 96 communities, 68 of which are in Washington and 28 in Oregon. Its interstate pipelines transmit natural gas from production areas in the Rocky Mountains and western Canada.

Source:
Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission
Cascade Natural Gas Corporation

PHMSA Awards States More Than $49 Million in Pipeline Safety Grants

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced on July 1 that it has awarded more than $49 million in Pipeline Safety Base Grants to reimburse a part of operating costs for state pipeline safety programs.

States charged with inspecting intrastate transmission and distribution pipelines that transport crude oil, natural gas, or other energy products within state lines receive a reimbursement of up to 80 percent of operating costs. The grants also include a maintenance of effort clause that requires each state to contribute the average of its last three years of contributions unless the state is unable to provide the contribution due to economic hardship, which the state must be able to demonstrate.

“The Federal/state partnership is the cornerstone of the national pipeline safety program,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx according to the PHMSA brief. “State pipeline inspectors oversee more than 80 percent of the nation’s 2.6 million-mile pipeline network, and we want to make sure they have the resources needed to ensure the safety of the American people.”

These grants provide funding for state programs that employ 340 or more pipeline safety inspectors. The grants are performance-based and are given based on the individual state’s estimated program costs and recent performance scores.

To view the recipients and grant amounts for the 2016 Natural Gas Pipeline State Base Grant and the 2016 Hazardous Liquid Pipeline State Base Grant, click here.

Source:
PHMSA

President Obama Signs New Pipeline Safety Bill into Law

By Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project - http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/new_official_portrait_released/, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5767332

President Barack Obama signed into law on June 21 the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016, which sailed quickly through the House and Senate earlier this month.

The legislation is the result of bipartisan work from the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee, and its purpose is to reform the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to increase efficiency and transparency.

Under the PIPES Act, PHMSA is required to set federal minimum safety standards for underground natural gas storage facilities, above which states have the ability to set higher standards for intrastate requirements.

The law also increases inspection requirements for certain underwater oil pipelines as well as updates regulations for certain LNG facilities to keep in line with changing technology and markets.

Along with granting emergency order authority tailored for pipelines, the PIPES Act creates a working group of safety officials and industry stakeholders to put together recommendations for creating an information sharing system to improve safety outcomes. PHMSA also has the authority to study the feasibility of a national integrated pipeline safety database to better oversee federal and state safety efforts.

“We came together, Republicans and Democrats, to improve pipeline safety, and we got the job done with this important law. Every day, American families and businesses depend on safe and efficient energy transportation. The PIPES Act will ensure that our nation’s 2.6 million miles of pipelines continue to provide critical access to energy, and we are proud of the bipartisan work that made this effort a success,” sponsors of the House of the original House legislation responded after the bill became law.

Source:
PennEnergy
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

PG&E to Face Jury After Deadly San Bruno Pipeline Explosion

Destruction after fire and explosion in San Bruno. By Brocken Inaglory, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16412750

Pacific Gas and Electric Company is scheduled to face a jury in a criminal trial after being accused for obstructing investigations just before the disastrous pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California. Opening statements are set to begin Thursday.

The September 2010 deadly explosion of a natural gas pipeline killed eight people and obliterated 38 homes. Prosecutors claim that after the explosion federal investigators were misled about how PG&E kept records of high-risk pipelines.

The company was indicted in 2014 for violating pipeline safety regulations and failing to identify and assess the San Bruno natural gas line as well as other similar pipelines as high-risk pipelines. Investigators blame the 2010 explosion on poor-record keeping based on incomplete and inaccurate pipeline information.

If PG&E is found guilty during trial, the company will face $562 million in fines. PG&E has pleaded not guilty, saying its employees did not intentionally violate pipeline safety laws or obstruct investigations.

Read more from the source:
PennEnergy

Pipeline Safety Bill Sent to White House

By Kevin McCoy, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=106463

The US Senate unanimously approved the amended federal pipeline safety bill PIPES Act of 2016 on Monday and sent it to the President’s desk for signature. The Senate made its vote just four days after the bill was approved in the House.

The Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act reauthorizes the federal pipeline safety program within PHMSA through fiscal 2019. Moreover, it ensures that PHMSA will carry out the rest of its safety directives given in the expired pipeline safety program of 2011.

According to the PIPES Act 2016 summary given by the Energy & Commerce and Transport & Infrastructure Committees, the bill “reforms PHMSA to be a more dynamic, data-driven regulator and provides regulatory certainty for citizens, the safety community, and the industry.”

President of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers Chet Thompson warned that Congress should continue to “conduct vigilant oversight to ensure PHMSA’s new authorities are not abused” now that they will be given a wide-range emergency authority.

“In giving PHMSA wide-ranging emergency order authority that, if used improperly, has the potential for severe disruptions for businesses and consumers, Congress must now carefully monitor its actions to avoid agency overreach, which could inhibit the energy industry’s ability to provide affordable and abundant fuel in a safe and reliable manner,” he added.

Pipelines are one of the safest modes of transportation for energy commodities, resulting in successful transportation 99.999% of the time. They are the critical link to connect oil and gas resources to consumers around the world.

Source:
PIPES Act 2016 Summary
PennEnergy

House Passes Bipartisan PIPES Act of 2016

PIPES ACT of 2016 Banner from http://transportation.house.gov/pipes-2016/

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously approved bipartisan PIPES Act of 2016 to increase pipeline safety, enhance safety oversight efforts, and provide stricter regulations in transporting energy commodities.

The Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016 is a product of both the Transportation & Infrastructure and Energy & Commerce Committees who collaborated text from separate bills passed out of each of the committees in April.

The legislation will improve the safety of the pipeline infrastructure and bring needed reform within the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which will require the agency to be even more efficient and data-driven.

The bill will also reauthorize the federal pipeline safety program within PHMSA for four years, require updates to safety regulations and the increase in transparency, and speed up the process of completing outstanding safety requirements included in the 2011 authorization.

The legislation is awaiting Senate approval and movement toward the President’s desk.

Read the bill summary here.

Source:
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

PHMSA Extends Comment Period for Proposed Rulemaking of Safer Natural Gas Transmission Pipelines

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced that it is extending the comment period on the proposed natural gas transmission rule by 30 days. The original comment period that would expire June 7, 2016 is now extended to July 7, 2016 due to several requests for the extension.

The proposed regulations, made available to the public in the Federal Register on March 17, 2016, bring to light the needs of America’s natural gas pipeline system and provide integral measures to better ensure the safety of communities living near pipeline infrastructure and protect the environment.

The rulemaking process starts with Federal agencies such as PHMSA, but it cannot move forward without carefully considered input from the public and key collaborators who provide important and unique perspectives on the proposed rulemaking.

A formal notice of the comment extension has been published in the Federal Register. For more information about the proposed rulemaking or how to comment, visit http://phmsa.dot.gov.

Read more from the source:
U.S. Department of Transportation

SoCal Gas Company Fined $2.25 Million for Pipeline Safety Violations

Aerial view of the Aliso Canyon gas leak, two months after the incident began.
EARTHWORKS (Aliso Canyon methane leak Credit: Earthworks) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Southern California Gas Company was fined $2.25 million due to delayed fixes on corrosion control systems that were found during a gas operation inspection in the Harbor Area and Mid-City.

The inspection took place in April and May 2015 by the Safety Enforcement Division for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), during which the CPUC found 45 safety violations. According to the citation, between 2011 and 2015 SoCal Gas Company failed to repair 125 deficient corrosion prevention systems within the required 15 months. CPUC fined the gas company for 45 of those 125 deficiencies that exceeded two years, reporting that they posed unacceptable risk to safe operations.

Months after the April and May 2015 inspections, a gas well blew out at the company’s Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility in the north end of the San Fernando Valley near Porter Ranch. The well rupture led to the uncontrolled release of more than 5 billion cubic feet of natural gas and the relocation of more than 2,000 families outside of the area.

CPUC’s citation notes that the violation was not willful, and Southern California Gas Company has taken highest responsibility to address the problem by implementing system-wide corrective actions.

Read more from the source:
KPCC