Annual Report: Leaks on Federal Lands

As the March 15 deadline approaches for submitting annual reports to PHMSA, operators are working hard to tally the miles of pipe, classifications, MAOPs, leaks repaired and other required items.

The topic of today’s post comes from a question posed to ViaData from an operator regarding the annual reports.

“We’re in the middle of data gathering for our annual DOT reports.  They ask for number of Leaks on Federal Land.  We have some disagreement on the definition of Federal Land.  Do you have any guidance on whether Post Offices would be included in this category.”

The annual report requires reporting of leaks on federal land or the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) repaired or scheduled for repair.  The instructions for the report define Federal Lands as “…all lands owned by the United States except lands in the National Park System, lands held in trust for an Indian or Indian tribe, and lands on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), as defined in 30 USC 185.”

The referenced 30 USC 185 is the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 (as amended) and Section 1 of the act begins “An Act To promote the mining of coal, phosphate, oil, oil shale,gas and sodium on the public domain.”  The definition of the lands is that shown above and these are under the control of the Department of Interior.

Researching the history of the report form and this requirement found the following:

From Docket OPS-49, NPRM #1 amending reporting rules (6/5/78, 43 FR 24478, emphasis added):

(a) In Part V of proposed Form RSPA–1 and proposed Form RSPA–2, additional information is requested in order to clarify the reason for submission of an Individual Leak Report. The criteria for submitting these reports are in 49 CFR Part 191, Section 191.5.This change should provide MTB a quick reference regarding the various reasons for the submission of a report and also guide the operators in properly completing the subject forms. Part V would also require operators to identify if a reported leak occurred on Federal lands. This information is needed in order to comply with the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, as amended November 16, 1973 (P.L. 93153, 30 U.S.C. 185).

And later in Docket OPS-49, NPRM #5, regarding the instructions for incident reports (3/31/83, 48 FR 13450, emphasis added):

4. Federal lands-For the purposes of completing Form RSPA F 7100.1, “Federal lands” means all lands owned by the United States, including, but not limited to, lands in the National Park System, lands held in trust for an Indian or Indian tribe, lands of the Outer Continental Shelf (offshore), and Military Reservations. Incidents occurring at Federal buildings, such as Court Houses, Customs Houses, and other Federal office buildings and warehouses, are not to be reported as being on “Federal lands.”

As explained in the NPRM and Final Rule the intent of these instructions, it is to comply with the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, which reads as follows (emphasis added):

“Reports

“(w) (1) The secretary and other appropriate agency heads shall report to the House and Senate Committees on Interior and Insular Affairs annually on the administration of this section and on the safety and environmental requirements imposed pursuant thereto.

“(2) The Secretary or agency head shall notify the House and Senate Committees on Interior and Insular Affairs promptly upon receipt of an application for a right-of-way for a pipeline twenty-four inches or more in diameter, and no right-of-way for such a pipeline shall be granted until sixty days (not counting days on which the House or Representatives of the Senate has adjourned fro more than three days) after a notice of intention to grant the right-of-way, together with the Secretary’s or agency head’s detailed findings as to terms and conditions he proposes to impose, had been submitted to such committees, unless each committee by resolution waives the waiting period.

“(3) Periodically, but at least once a year, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation shall cause the examination of all pipelines and associated facilities on Federal lands and shall cause the prompt reporting of any potential leaks or safety problems.

“(4) The Secretary of the Department of Transportation shall report annually to the President, the Congress, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Interstate Commerce Commission any potential dangers of or actual explosions, or potential or actual spillage of Federal lands and shall include in such report a statement of corrective action take to prevent such explosion or spillage.

Section (w)(4) was removed (Dec 21, 1995) by Public Law 104-66, however this section was in force at the time the report form and instructions were developed.

From all this the conclusion would be “Federal Lands” are those lands covered by the Mineral Leasing Act, but would not include the Post Office (a Federal Building) if you follow the above explanation.

All this and a lot more in WinDOT, The Pipeline Safety Encyclopedia.

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2 thoughts on “Annual Report: Leaks on Federal Lands”

  1. I appreciate the clarification on the Federal building issue. However, I would like to know about what I perceive as a conflict in the PHMSA instructions and the docket you cite. PHMSA defines Federal Lands as “…all lands owned by the United States EXCEPT (my emphasis) lands in the National Park System, lands held in trust for an Indian or Indian tribe, and lands on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), as defined in 30 USC 185.

    The docket you cite defines Federal land as all lands owned by the United States, INCLUDING (my emphasis), but not limited to, lands in the National Park System, lands held in trust for an Indian or Indian tribe, lands of the Outer Continental Shelf (offshore), and Military Reservations.

    Since the PHMSA instructions exclude everything in the docket definiition except military reservations and the docket excludes Federal buildings, it seems the only thing left to report on is leaks on military reservations. Any thoughts/guidance?

  2. The docket cited, Docket OPS-49; NPRM #5 published in 1983, and the definition shown is the proposed definition for Federal Lands. This is for the General Instructions for incident reports for distribution, transmission and gathering as follows:

    “Federal lands-For the purposes of completing Form RSPA F 7100.2, “Federal lands” means all lands owned by the United States, including, but not limited to, lands in the National Park System, lands held in trust for an Indian or Indian tribe, lands of the Outer Continental Shelf (offshore), and Military Reservations. Incidents occurring at Federal buildings, such as Court Houses, Customs Houses, and other Federal office buildings and warehouses are not to be reported as being on “Federal lands.”

    This is the first time that Federal Lands have been addressed in reporting and is necessary to meet the requirements of the 1973 amendment to the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. It may also be the only time that there has been an explanation of Federal Lands published by OPS.

    The final rule and instructions are what we see today in the incident report and it is not unusual for final rule language to differ from what is in the NPRM. The definition from in the finalized instructions for the incident report are:

    “Federal Lands other than Outer Continental Shelf means all lands the United States owns, including military reservations, except lands in National Parks and lands held in trust for Native Americans. Incidents at Federal buildings, such as Federal Court Houses, Custom Houses, and other Federal office buildings and warehouses, are not to be reported as being on Federal Lands.”

    This conforms more closely with the definition of Federal Lands from the Mineral Leasing Act (30 USC 185), as amended in 1973 (Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act, November 16, 1973):

    “(b) (1) For the purposes of this section ‘Federal lands’ means all lands owned by the United States except lands in the National Park System, lands held in trust for the Indian or Indian tribe, and lands on the Outer Continental Shelf. A right-of-way through a Federal reservation shall not be granted if the Secretary or agency head determines that it would be inconsistent with the purposes of the reservation.

    And on to the Annual Reports, there is the same reference to Federal Lands, without mention of the federal office buildings.

    “FEDERAL LANDS means all lands owned by the United States except lands in the National Park System, lands held in trust for an Indian or Indian tribe, and lands on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), as defined in 30 USC 185.”

    Yes, the final definition is different from what was proposed. It appears that the proposed definition was more inclusive than the Mineral Leasing Act definition, and OPS may have recognized the difference and made a change for the final rule.

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