§191.3 and 191.5, Reporting vehicular incidents

The definition of incident for gas pipeline operators changed in 2010.  The cost of the damage from the incident was separated from the cost of the the gas lost.  This may not have made much difference for distribution operators, but it was a significant change for transmission systems.

Determining the property damage may seem like a straightforward process, but as the following interpretation explains, it may not be simple in all cases.  Vehicular related incidents, while less frequent, often do result in a reportable incident because of the increased likelihood of personal injury or death.

The following provides an interesting prospective on these situations.

Jun 14, 2011


Mr. Jason Montoya, PE
Bureau Chief
New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission
1120 Paseo de Peralta, Room 416
Santa Fe, NM  87504-1269

Dear Mr. Montoya:

In a letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) dated November 29, 2010, you requested an interpretation of the applicability of the incident reporting requirements for events involving the release of gas from a gas pipeline.  Specifically, you requested clarification on how the definition of the word ¿incident¿ in 49 CFR 191.3 would apply with respect to three separate events that occurred in New Mexico in 2010 that resulted in fatalities or hospitalization.  You described the incidents as follows:

The first fatality (Report No. 2010041-15053) involved a driver hitting a gas meter and continuing down the street where he ran into a tree; the second fatality (Report No. 2010078-15106) was identical except that the driver ran into a horse trailer; and the third fatality (Report No. 20100106-15140) was very similar as well.  All incidents resulted in less than $15,000 operator property damage, including cost of gas lost and repairs.

You stated your understanding that § 191.3 would require all three incidents to be reportable incidents because each of the events involved a release of gas and either a death or inpatient hospitalization.  You further stated that PHMSA informed you that incident reporting was not required for incidents 2010041-15053 and 2010078-15106 but PHMSA did not mention the similar incident  20100106-15140 and this has caused uncertainty in making determinations on what is and is not considered a reportable incident.

You further asked PHMSA to clarify the manner in which operators are required to calculate estimated property damage costs for incidents similar to the ones you described.  In particular, you asked whether the damage to the vehicles involved in these incidents needed to be included in estimating the costs.

At the time of these particular incidents, the definition of an incident in § 191.3 read:

Incident means any of the following events:

(1) An event that involves a release of gas from a pipeline or of liquefied natural gas or gas from an LNG facility, and

(i) A death, or personal injury necessitating in-patient hospitalization; or

(ii) Estimated property damage, including cost of gas lost, of the operator or others, or both, of $50,000 or more.

(2) An event that results in an emergency shutdown of an LNG facility.

(3) An event that is significant, in the judgment of the operator, even though it did not meet the criteria of paragraphs (1) or (2).

 

Since then, the agency modified the definition of incident in § 191.3 as follows (75 FR 72905, November 26, 2010):

Incident means any of the following events:

(1) An event that involves a release of gas from a pipeline, or of liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, refrigerant gas, or gas from an LNG facility, and that results in one or more of the following consequences:

(i) A death, or personal injury necessitating in-patient hospitalization;

(ii) Estimated property damage of $50,000 or more, including loss to the operator and others, or both, but excluding cost of gas lost;

(iii) Unintentional estimated gas loss of three million cubic feet or more;

(2) An event that results in an emergency shutdown of an LNG facility.  Activation of an emergency shutdown system for reasons other than an actual emergency does not constitute an incident.

(3) An event that is significant in the judgment of the operator even though it did not meet the criteria of paragraphs (1) or (2) of this definition.

Under both definitions, each report describes a series of events, beginning with a vehicle striking a gas pipeline facility and gas being released.  At that moment, there did not appear to be any injuries or fatalities.  After the initial contact with gas pipeline facilities and the gas release, each vehicle struck other objects.  The injuries and fatalities reportedly occurred in conjunction with these later events.  That is, they did not happen as a result of the vehicle striking the gas pipeline.  Since the initial event including the release of gas did not involve injuries, fatalities, or property damage exceeding $50,000, the criteria in paragraphs (1)(i) and (ii) have not been met for any of the three incidents.  Therefore, reporting was not required for any of these three incidents.  If the operator elects to report one or more of the events under paragraph (3) of the incident definition anyway, it should exclude the injuries and fatalities from the report.  Since PHMSA is no longer processing requests for rescinding telephonic notices to the National Response Center, no action is needed related to any telephonic notices associated with these events.

For the determination of the property damage calculation, the cost of the damage to a vehicle striking a gas pipeline facility would normally be included in determining whether the incident was reportable.  In this case, however, it was acceptable not to include these costs in the calculations because it is unknown whether the vehicle damage was incurred as a result of striking the gas facility or as a result of subsequently striking structures elsewhere.1

I hope that this information is helpful to you.  If I can be of further assistance, please contact me at 202-366-4046.

Sincerely,

John A. Gale
Director, Office of Standards and Rulemaking

An operator would, however, be expected to make a reasonable effort to ascertain the extent to which the damage was attributable to striking the gas pipeline facility.

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

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