Routing of pipelines

There has been much discussion the past couple of years over the routing of pipelines such as the Keystone Pipeline in Nebraska and gas transmission pipelines through cities and towns.  Public and environmental safety is generally the main concern for protests over pipeline locations.

PHMSA has no jurisdiction over the routing of pipelines, this is left to other permitting agencies.  However the regulations do recognize that location of a pipeline can be a bearing on its safety.   Part 192.5 Class Locations defines class locations based on building or population density, which is then used in design, construction, operation and maintenance to increase safety levels.

Part 195.210 also defines acceptable, practicable locations, and additional requirements when such locations are encountered.

The following interpretation from 1980, while quite lengthy, shows concerns and protests over  routing of pipelines is not a new phenomenon, but has been an ongoing discussion for decades.

Interpretation 195.210  24
March 12, 1980

Mr. Lee C. White
Attorney at Law
White, Fine & Verville
1156 Fifteenth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005

Dear Mr. White:

Your letter dated November 1, 1979, to Secretary Goldschmidt was forwarded to this agency for reply.  Your letter concerned a proposed routing by Colonial Pipeline Company of a 36-inch petroleum pipeline through the property of Mr. Douglas Tinsler.  Your letter showed an existing 32-inch products pipeline owned by Colonial Pipeline Company as well as three existing 36-inch natural gas pipelines owned by Transco, all of which are routed through the same property.  You requested a determination that:

The proposed routing is inconsistent with the requirements of 49 CFR part 195, particularly §195.210(a), as they apply to oil pipeline safety considerations; and
The proposed routing is inconsistent with the requirements of the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968, as amended, 49 U.S.C. 1672 et seq., and 49 CFR Part 192 with respect to the impact the proposed oil line will have on the safety operation of existing Transco natural gas pipelines.
With regard to part 195, while we have not compared the proposed 36-inch pipeline with all the standards in Part 195 to determine the extent of compliance, we have checked for a possible violation of § 195.210(a).

Section 195.210, Pipeline location, provides in paragraph (a) that:

“Pipeline right-of-way must be selected to avoid, as far as practicable, areas containing private dwellings, industrial buildings, and places of public assembly.”

As provided in § 195.200, § 195.210(a) applies to the construction of new steel pipeline systems, such as the proposed 36-inch Colonial pipeline.
In selecting a right-of-way for a given pipeline, an important consideration is that the right-of-way must avoid, as far as practicable, areas containing private dwellings, industrial buildings, and places of public assembly, as required in § 195.210(a).  However, avoiding areas addressed by §195.210(a) is not the sole determinant in choosing among alternate pipeline routes.  The following economic, safety, and environmental criteria must also be carefully considered by pipeline operators in evaluating the merits of potentially alternate routes:

·    Complying with the pipeline safety design and construction regulations and facilitation compliance with the operations and maintenance regulations.

·    The possible use of existing rights-of-way in order to located the pipeline in a corridor and thereby minimize potential for excavation damage to the pipelines.

·    Minimizing the construction of pipelines in areas of potential damage such as highway, railroad, and river crossings.

·    Providing for as direct a route as possible between the pipeline points being connected.

·    Minimizing costs to the extent possible consistent with acceptable levels of safety and environmental impact.

·    Minimizing any adverse effects on the environment.

Stated another way, a pipeline right-of-way that is chosen only on the basis of avoiding every area containing private dwellings, industrial buildings, and places of public assembly would most certainly be circuitous, and as a result would most likely not be the safest, most economical, or environmentally beneficial right-of-way choice.  The fact that § 195.210(a) only requires avoidance of such areas “as far as practicable” recognizes the potentially adverse effects of such an approach.

Section 195.210(b) gives further recognition to the potential impracticability of requiring avoidance, in selecting a pipeline right-of-way, of every area addressed in § 195.210(a).  If, after determining the merits of each alternate route on the basis of the above criteria, the relative merits of each route in relation to the others show that the best route would not avoid private dwellings, industrial buildings, and places of public assembly, § 195.210(b) provides for the pipeline to be buried an additional 13 inches if it comes within 50 feet of any private dwelling, industrial building, or place of public assembly in which persons work, congregate, or assemble.  While § 195.210(a) recognizes the existence of higher risk areas, the additional burial depth required for a pipeline crossing such areas as provided in § 195.210(b) is intended to achieve a level of safety consonant with those higher risks.

We requested from Colonial the reasons for selecting the route of the proposed 36-inch pipeline that transverses Mr. Tinsler’s property.  Colonial replied on December 8, 1979, (copy of letter enclosed) stating that the pipeline route is essentially straight from the Remington Pump Station 5 miles to the south of Calverton to the Bull Run delivery Facility 15 miles north of Calverton, and enclosed an alignment map to support this statement.  Colonial argues that the straight alignment has been maintained in order to minimize costs.

Concerning Mr. Tinsler’s property, Colonial advised that the right-of-way through Mr. Tinsler’s property was originally selected to avoid Calverton and the alignment map appears to support this allegation.  Colonial further advised that the pipeline is proposed to be built in the existing right-of-way in order to (1) minimize the potential for third party damage to the pipeline; (2) facilitate marking the pipeline and maintaining the right-of-way; (3) minimize the damage to the environment; and (4) avoid the additional cost that other routing would require.

We also reviewed your letter of December 12, 1979, rebutting the December 8 letter from Colonial.  From information contained in your letter and those of Colonial, it appears that the economic, safety, and environmental merits of using the same right-of-way through Mr. Tinsler’s property outweigh the advantages of using an alternate route around the Tinsler property.  This consideration along with Colonial’s offer to provide more than 100 feet of separation between the pipeline and Mr. Tinsler’s home indicated to us that Colonial would meet it obligation under § 195.210(a) to avoid private dwelling areas as far as practicable.

With regard to the natural gas pipelines, we see no violation of 49 CFR Part 192 as a result of routing the proposed products pipeline through you client’s property in the manner described.



December 12, 1979

Mr. Lee C. White
Attorney at Law
1156 Fifteenth St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005

Dear Mr. White:

Your letter dated November 1, 1979, to Secretary Goldschmidt, has been forwarded to this agency for reply. You requested that we make a determination that the route of the proposed 36” petroleum products pipeline by Colonial Pipeline Company through the property of Mr. Douglas Tinsler at Calverton, Virginia, is inconsistent with 49 CFR part 195 or Part 192.

In order to make this determination, we need certain information from Colonial Pipeline Company. We have requested this information form Colonial Pipeline Company and, when it is received, will make a determination in this matter.  In the meantime, please rest assured that we are giving this matter our full attention.


Howard Dugoff

White, Fine & Verville
Attorneys At Law

1156 Fifteenth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005

November 1, 1979

The Honorable Neil E. Goldschmidt
Secretary, Department of Transportation
Room 10200
400 Seventh Street, S.W.
Washington, D. C. 20590

Re:   Request for Review and Determination of Safety Hazards Regarding Proposed Colonial Pipeline Company Routing of a Liquid Products Pipeline through Calverton, Fauquier County, Virginia

Dear Mr. Secretary:

This letter is to request your review of a proposed oil pipeline routing through the Town of Calverton, Virginia, and your determination with respect to certain safety hazards raised by the proposed routing, all as set forth more fully herein and in the enclosed Statement of Facts. It is our understanding that the Office of Pipeline Safety Regulation within the Research and Special Programs Administration has responsibility for interpreting and enforcing federal safety requirements applicable to this matter.

Our client, Mr. Douglas Tinsler, is the owner of a 4.28 acre residential property through which the Colonial Pipeline Company (“Colonial”) proposes to run a 36″ liquid products pipeline in the near future. Colonial has indicated to our client its intent to seek right-of-way by condemnation for this pipeline in extremely close proximity to the following:

·    Three existing 36″ natural gas pipelines owned and operated by Transco which cross Mr. Tinsler’s property. The Transco line closest to the proposed new Colonial line exploded in the early 1970’s within eight miles of the subject property;

·    An existing Colonial 32″ liquid products line which runs through the same property; and

·    Our client’s residential dwelling, several other single family residences, a multi-family structure housing approximately 100 residents, and a church, all within the Town of Calverton.

Mr. Tinsler has made repeated attempts to engage Colonial in a discussion of safety issues and has asked that Colonial consider a realignment of its proposed new line so as to avoid his property or, alternatively, that Colonial consider a purchase of the property and termination of its use as a residence. Despite these efforts, Colonial has never acknowledged the safety issues which Mr. Tinsler has raised nor responded in any fashion which would suggest that Colonial has seriously considered an alternative alignment of the proposed right-of-way so as to avoid the above-referenced residential population.

Therefore, I am submitting the enclosed Statement of Facts for your review and request your determination that:

·    the proposed routing is inconsistent with the requirements of 49 C.F.R. Part 195, particularly Subsection 195.210(a), as they apply to oil pipeline safety considerations; and

·    the proposed routing is inconsistent with the requirements of the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968 as amended, 49 U.S.C. 1672 et seq. and 49 C.F.R. Part 192 with respect to the impact the proposed oil line will have on the safe operation of the existing Transco natural gas lines.

Because existing conditions of Transco’s certificates of public convenience and necessity for these lines may have some bearing on this latter question, I am also submitting these materials to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
As Colonial has advised Mr. Tinsler that it will move to initiate proceedings in state court, I would like to request an expedited review of this matter. Should you or your staff have any questions concerning this submission, please contact me or my colleague, Robert Saner, at 202-659-2900.

Respectfully submitted,

Lee C. White

White, Fine & Verville
Attorneys At Law
1156 Fifteenth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005
December 12, 1979

Mr. Cesar DeLeon
Director, Office of Pipeline Safety
& Regulations
U.S. Department of Transportation
Room 8101
Nassif Building
400 7th Street, S.W.
Washington, D. C. 20590

Re: Colonial Pipeline Company Proposed Routing through Calverton, Virginia

Dear Mr. DeLeon:

Having reviewed Colonial’s letter of December 8 which attempts to justify the proposed routing of a liquid products pipeline through the property of Mr. Douglas Tinsler, I feel obliged to address a number of the facts and arguments alleged by Colonial. Without wishing to complicate or delay your deliberations, I hope this limited rebuttal will assist you in reaching a determination under 49 CFR 195.210(a) as to the practicability of avoiding the residential area of Calverton.

As a general matter, we find it unfortunate that a property owner must petition the Department of Transportation before a pipeline company will undertake a serious assessment of its obligations under Section 195.210. Despite Mr. Tinsler having raised the issue frequently in correspondence, Colonial’s letter to you of December 8 is the first evidence that Colonial ever gave any consideration to avoiding the Calverton residential area as it selected right of way for its new line. We thus find many of the assertions in Colonial’s letter characteristic of an after-the-fact justification, not the a priori assessment and evaluation which we believe 195.210 requires.

In response to some of Colonial’s specific assertions, the following:
P.1, Para. 3.     Colonial argues that its 1963 alignment was chosen to avoid the communities of Calverton and Catlett. We believe to the contrary that maps of these areas clearly demonstrate that the 1963 line goes around Catlett, while deviating only slightly within Calverton’s residential area. Had the 1963 alignment bypassed Calverton completely, Colonial would now be able to follow its existing corridor without imposing any additional threat on either Mr. Tinsler or other residential property. Colonial also states that the size of the two communities remains “essentially unchanged today”. We estimate that between 1963 and 1979 the residential population of Calverton has approximately doubled. (Precise figures could be obtained if useful.) The increase in size in due largely to conversion of a school into a multi-unit apartment building, and the construction of several new houses including a small subdivision, all of which lie in immediate proximity to the existing corridor. Colonial apparently relies on aerial photographs to establish these propositions, while we rely on recent U.S. G.S. maps which were submitted to you as part of our original filing in this matter. The U.S. G.S. maps are, of course, based on aerial photography so we see no reason why there should be discrepancies, but if there are, we would appreciate an opportunity to review Colonial’s photographs.

P.2, Para. 2.     Colonial finds no evidence of any representations made to Mr. Tinsler at the time of his purchase of the subject property in 1975. As we have pointed out previously, both Mr. Tinsler and the prior owner of the property did have conversations with Colonial prior to the purchase, and those conversations were even referenced in the sale contract on the property. While it may not be germane to determining compliance with federal regulations, we remain somewhat troubled by Colonial’s assertion now that it had no plans in 1975 for additional lines. If the system had been operating at full capacity and under proration ever since 1967, as Colonial maintains, we find it unlikely that Colonial had not considered an additional line eight years later. More significantly, the 1975 and subsequent annual reports of Colonial’s parent companies, Gulf & Texaco, indicate that it did have plans and financing for an additional line under consideration as early as 1975.

P2, Para. 3.     Colonial claims to be “committed” to connecting a pump station to the south and a delivery facility to the north of Calverton. Since Colonial gives no reason for that “commitment”, it is impossible to discern whether there is some engineering, commercial, or other necessity. Even conceding the necessity, it is in no way supportive of Colonial’s position. We do not deny that their proposed alignment between the two points is “substantially straight”; only that, from a review of the maps, it appears to us that a line avoiding Calverton with the kind of deviation that avoided Catlett would still be “substantially straight”.

P. 2, Para. 4.     Colonial argues that it has placed its new line in close proximity to its old line at numerous locations to avoid obstructions “substantially akin to the Tinsler property”. We doubt that any of those instances involved the uniqueness of Mr. Tinsler’s situation where five pipelines would be squeezed together on the same small plot of land. And even if the situations were identical to Mr. Tinsler’s property, we hardly find prior examples of ignoring the obligation of Section 195.210 to be persuasive justification for ignoring that obligation in this case.

P. 2, Para. 6.     Colonial begins for the first time to address why it does not consider it “practicable” to avoid
this residential area. We find it amusing, and somewhat straining the imagination to believe that Colonial relies first on safety considerations to justify its proposed route. Mr. Tinsler has been attempting to raise safety issues with Colonial since July; Colonial’s December letter is the first indication to him that Colonial has ever taken the issue seriously.

We did not bring this matter to your attention to argue over whether or not it is generally preferable to place pipelines within a common corridor.  Whatever safety considerations may militate in favor of a common corridor, the common corridor approach is often the line of “least resistance” for the pipeline company, and we suspect therein lies the real justification for Colonial’s proposed routing in this instance. Had the 1963 routing avoided the residential area of Calverton, we would not be disputing the wisdom of a parallel alignment. Since it did not, however, we find it hard to believe that it is “safer” to squeeze yet another pipeline into an already crowded corridor in a residential area than it would be to place the new pipeline outside that residential area (if it is “practicable” to do so). We think the same reasoning applies to the environmental considerations which Colonial raises. (P. 3, Para. 1.)

P. 3, Para. 2.     Colonial totally misses the mark in its analysis of safety considerations when it states that any reroute would “simply transfer the problem from the Tinsler property to another one”. The whole point of Mr. Tinsler’s complaint is that it is practicable to transfer the problem from his residential property to non-residential property, and that is exactly what a reasoned interpretation of Section 195.210(a) requires. If Colonial were to avoid Mr. Tinsler’s property by running the line through an adjacent residential property, indeed little would be accomplished.

As to the costs of rerouting the line to the southeast so as to avoid residential properties, we are not now in a position to challenge the particular figures which Colonial asserts. We do, however, question whether such a reroute really qualifies as “extensive” given the total size of a major interstate pipeline project. We further submit that the additional costs which Colonial bemoans might be a reasonable price to pay for an added measure of safety. We suspect that if the added costs asserted by Colonial are compared to the total capital and operating costs of the proposed pipeline, the numbers would seem a good bit smaller.

P. 3, Para. 3.     Colonial argues that a reroute is “untenable” because it has already spent considerable money acquiring other tracts along the proposed route. In the best of circumstances, we do not see how this alters Colonial’s obligation to avoid residential areas where practicable. Particularly is this so where, as in this case, Colonial has been on notice for approximately six months as to Mr. Tinsler’s concerns, and all property acquisitions in the Calverton area of which we are aware have been consummated after, not before Colonial was on notice of these concerns. Certainly a pipeline cannot frustrate the intent of 195.210(a) by simply

acquiring upstream and downstream rights, then pleading hardship. Finally, it is interesting to note that to
Mr. Tinsler’s knowledge, Colonial has not purchased nor even initiated negotiations for rights from several immediately adjacent landowners which rights would be necessary if Colonial persists with its proposed routing.
P. 3, Para. 4.     Colonial submits that it is “not practical” to purchase the Tinsler property in fee and finds his logic “not consistent”. We express no opinion as to whether the safety considerations should be the same for a residential property in which people sleep and a commercial property used during business hours only as Mr. Tinsler in fact suggested. Even if the considerations were equal, if Colonial is so confident that squeezing pipelines into this property is a prudent course, we see no reason why they should be reluctant to purchase and occupy the property. Mr. Tinsler does not share their confidence.

P. 3, Para. 5.     Mr. Tinsler objects to any suggestion that Colonial has attempted to “negotiate” with him over this most recent proposed Colonial route. Colonial’s “negotiation” is amply demonstrated by correspondence already in your files. With respect to the route they now pursue, it consists essentially of notifying Mr. Tinsler of the route, giving him a final “take it or leave it” offer for damages, and bringing an action in state court against him to condemn the property.

P. 3, Paras. 5 & 6.     Colonial asserts twice that it is not in violation of any Department of Transportation code. We think it more appropriate for the Department of Transportation to make that determination, and it is for this reason that Mr. Tinsler has brought this matter to your attention.
Again, we appreciate your consideration of the issues raised on Mr. Tinsler’s behalf.

Sincerely yours,

Robert J. Saner II
Counsel for Douglas Tinsler


Colonial Pipe Company
50001 West Broad ST.
P.O. Box 14525
Richmond, VA 23221

December 8, 1979
Mr. Cesar DeLeon, Director
Office of Pipeline Safety and Regulations
U.S. Department of Transportation
Room 8101, Nassif Building
400 Seventh Street, S.W.
Washington, D. C. 20590

Dear Mr. DeLeon:

In response to your request, I shall address the subject of routing our proposed 36″ products pipeline. I do not believe there is any question as to the need for such a pipeline. As you know, the original Colonial system was built in 1962. There was considerable skepticism about sufficient volumes to fill and operate this, the world’s largest refined products pipeline. By 1967 the system was operating at full capacity. Despite our continued expansion, we have been operating under proration ever since.

The routing of any pipeline is essentially predetermined by the marketing areas to be served. Ideally, those marketing areas would be connected by straight line segments. The straight lines must be altered to avoid major obstacles such as cities, industrial complexes, etc. To a lesser degree there will be minor deviations to avoid individual structures and to optimize construction considerations.
Attached is some aerial photography taken from our 1963 alignment maps (Attachment 1). Despite Mr. Tinsler’s allegations, these photographs clearly demonstrate that both Colonial and Transco were routed to avoid the community of Calverton as well as Catlett. In fact, the very constriction that Mr. Tinsler refers to is the result of this routing: The deviation of both pipelines is admittedly more pronounced around Catlett than it is at Calverton, but the photographs also show that Catlett is considerably larger and more directly in the pipeline path. The size and relationship of these communities remain essentially unchanged today as witnessed by the attached photograph taken March 19, 1979 (Attachment 2).

The foregoing has been a general discussion of the Colonial Pipeline routing through the Calverton area. It is the proposed 36″ pipeline which we are primarily concerned with here. The following comments relate specifically to that line.
Mr. Tinsler indicates that he was assured by Colonial at the time of his 1975 purchase that there were no plans for an additional line. I can find no one in our organization who made such a statement. Nevertheless, it was a true statement at that time. These plans were formulated subsequent to that date. I would like to point out that our original easement across the Tinsler property does contain additional line rights. Certainly he should have been aware that the possibility existed.

It was suggested by Mr. Tinsler that a straighter alignment could be achieved by following a different route. I submit that we are committed to connecting Remington Pump Station (5 miles south) and Bull Run Delivery Facility (15 miles north). The attached maps of Fauquier and Prince William Counties (Attachment 3) show that our alignment between those two points is substantially straight.
Our general plan for laying the proposed 36″ line has been to locate it to the east of our existing 32″ line on thirty (30) foot centers. This was done on the recently completed segment from Greensboro, N.C., to Mitchell Junction (west of Richmond, Va.), and the same plan is being carried over to this, the next phase of expansion. The thirty (30) foot spacing was selected to provide an extra safety margin while laying parallel to an operating line. At numerous locations we have reduced the spacing to twenty (20) foot centers to avoid obstructions substantially akin to the Tinsler property. This can be, and has been, done safely by exercising added safety precautions.

We have been aware from early on that the property in question was one of several areas requiring special consideration. We considered several alternatives to the general plan of 30 feet east of the existing line: reduce the spacing to 20 feet, cross over to the west side of the existing line, or select a route around the Tinsler property. It is our opinion that the first alternative is not contrary to the DOT regulation so long as an additional twelve (12) inches of cover is provided.

We found that rerouting around the Tinsler property was not a viable alternative, for several reasons. First, and probably most important, is the safety consideration. Pipelines located within a common corridor are much less susceptible to third party damage than a proliferation of pipelines located within individual rights of way. The common corridor is much more easily identified and maintained, and is more obvious to the would be excavator than are individual rights of way.

The common corridor is much more acceptable from an environmental point of view. The total right of way which has to be cleared is greatly reduced by utilizing a portion of the existing right of way for construction and as a buffer zone for the protection of the new pipeline. In fact, we are receiving extreme pressure from several agencies (e.g., Fairfax County and State of Maryland) to utilize existing utility corridors.
In this specific instance there is no abbreviated reroute which would be beneficial. Any such reroute would simply transfer the problem from the Tinsler property to another one. To avoid all significant properties would require an extensive reroute to the southeast. Such a reroute would require approximately 2500 feet of additional pipeline. At $80 per foot this represents an additional $200,000 in construction costs. Further, at our planned operating criteria, it represents an operating cost (due to added friction loss) of $6 per foot or $15,000 per year for as long as we operate the pipeline.

Another factor which renders such a reroute untenable is that virtually all of the other tracts along our proposed route have already been acquired at considerable cost. A significant reroute would represent a loss to Colonial equivalent to that acquisition cost.
Purchase of the property in fee as Mr. Tinsler has suggested is not practical. His logic is not consistent: if the house were unsafe as a dwelling, the same should be true for occupancy by Colonial personnel.
The final alternative we have considered is the one we have attempted to negotiate with Mr. Tinsler: a crossover to the west side of our existing 32″ line. This proposal would place our line in excess of 100 feet from the house. Contrary to Mr. Tinsler’s implications, this certainly is not in violation of any code for natural gas pipelines.

I appreciate Mr. Tinsler’s point of view. However, I feel that we have given due consideration to his demands and have selected the most viable alternative. We certainly cannot agree that we are in violation of any Department of Transportation code.
If I may provide any additional information or be of assistance in any other way, please advise.

Very truly yours,

Harold R. Melendy
Manager, Pipeline Construction

All this and more including additional interpretations not previously published in WinDOT, The Pipeline Safety Encyclopedia, Version 3.0.


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