U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao Announces 2019 Pipeline Safety Legislative Proposal

A press release issued by PHMSA today outlines the legislative proposal transmitted to Congress today by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao for a bill entitled PIPES Act of 2019. The proposed legislation would reauthorize DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) pipeline safety programs for fiscal years 2020-2023.

The proposal includes measures that would:

  • Modernize PHMSA’s incident and construction data collection
  • Expand PHMSA’s State Pipeline Safety Program grant criteria for state costs.
  • Establish a voluntary safety information sharing program
  • Encourage replacement for aged local pipeline systems
  • Clarify certain regulatory measures to prevent incidents from occurring on pipelines
  • Streamline and enhance PHMSA’s support for new liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities
  • Promote research and development initiatives aimed at deploying new technologies to enhance pipeline safety and reliability.

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PHMSA Releases Hazardous Liquid Final Rule

PHMSA 02-17
Friday, January 13, 2017
Contact: Allie Aguilera
Tel.: 202-366-4831

PHMSA Completes Rulemaking that Boosts Safety Requirements to Strengthen the
Operation, Maintenance, and Inspection of the Nation’s Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

WASHINGTON – Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez, head of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced today that she signed a long awaited rulemaking package that makes critical safety improvements for hazardous liquid pipelines. Today’s signing of the final rule for the safety of on-shore hazardous liquid pipelines completes one of the agency’s top priority rulemakings for 2016.

“As the use of hazardous liquid pipelines to transport the nation’s energy supply grows, communities around the country have demanded regulatory certainty around the safe operation of these lines and facilities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This rule gives operators clear direction on the design, construction, and operation of hazardous liquid pipelines lines and holds them accountable for the safety of the communities they serve- its full implementation will be a vital step in driving our pipeline safety mission.”

The nation contains close to 200,000 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines operating near local communities and treasured landscapes, and crossing major bodies of water, including rivers. The rule signed today strengthens the standards that determine how operators repair aging and high-risk infrastructure, increases the quality and frequency of tests that assess the condition of pipelines, and extends leak detection the requirements to onshore, non-HCA transmission hazardous liquid pipelines.

“The changing energy environment in the United States requires that we all become increasingly anticipatory, predictive, and prepared for emerging risks,” said PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez. “This is a forward looking rule- it pushes operators to invest in increased data capabilities, to continuously improve their processes to assess and mitigate risk, and strengthens our framework for strong prescriptive regulations.”

The rule includes an increased focus on a data and risk informed approach to pipeline safety by requiring operators to integrate available data, including data on the operating environment, pipeline condition, and known manufacturing and construction defects. The rule requires pipeline operators to have a system for detecting leaks and to establish a timeline for inspecting affected pipelines following an extreme weather event or natural disaster. The inspections will allow operators to quickly identify damage to pipelines and make appropriate remediations.

The rule also requires operators to annually evaluate the protective measures they are already required to implement on pipeline segments that operate in High Consequence Areas (HCA) where pipeline failures have the highest potential for human or environmental damage, and implement additional measures as necessary. In addition, the rule sets a deadline for operators to use internal inspection tools where possible for any new and replaced pipeline that could affect an HCA. The rule also improves the quality and frequency of tests used to assess threats and the condition of pipelines.

Furthermore, the rule updates repair criteria under PHMSA’s risk-based management framework by expanding the list of conditions that require immediate repair.

The final rulemaking has been transmitted to the Federal Register for publication. An actual date of publication will be determined by the Federal Register, and PHMSA will update its website with a link to the rule when it is published.

For more information on the U.S. DOT’s efforts to improve pipeline safety and awareness, including details about the proposed rule, visit the PHMSA website at www.phmsa.dot.gov.

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PHMSA Audit Report released by OIG

The Office of the Inspector General has released an audit report Insufficient Guidance, Oversight, and Coordination Hinder PHMSA’s Full Implementation of Mandates and Recommendations. (View full report here.)

The October 14 report was requested by the Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to assess PHMSA’s:

  1. Progress in addressing congressional mandates and recommendations from NTSB, GAO, and OIG issued or open since 2005;
  2. Process for implementing mandates and recommendations, including any impediments to Agency action; and
  3. Efforts to coordinate and address Operating Administrations’ safety concerns.


PHMSA has made progress with implementing mandates and recommendations, but has missed deadlines
(This section includes charts showing the status of rulemaking activities and addressing NTSB recommendations on pipeline safety and hazmat safety.)

PHMSA’s lack of sufficient processes, guidance, and oversight for implementing mandates and recommendations has impeded timeliness

  • PHMSA lacks processes for rulemakings and other mandate and recommendation implementation activities
  • PHMSA did not always follow project management requirements in implementing rulemaking mandates and recommendations
  • PHMSA offices did not always follow project management requirements in implementing non-rulemaking mandates and recommendations
  • PHMSA does not adequately oversee implementation of mandates and recommendations
  • PHMSA is working to address shortcomings in its rulemaking activities

PHMSA lacks adequate coordination and policies for addressing FAA, FMCA, and FRA’s hazmat concerns

  • PHMSA has not adequately coordinated with the other OAS on rulemaking and international standards
  • PHMSA has not developed policy or guidance on how to respond to the OAS’ safety concerns


  1. Develop and issue an agency-wide policy for implementing mandates and recommendations. The policy should, at a minimum, establish:
    • Specific roles, responsibilities, and authorities of the Chief Counsel, Chief Safety Officer, and the Associate Administrators for Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety;
    • Requirements for developing a plan to address each mandate and recommendation;
    • Requirements for assigning responsibilities to each team member, in particular to team leads, for carrying out this policy;
    • Requirements for retaining documentation in accordance with the Department of Transportation records management policy; and
    • Management controls including oversight processes for the implementation of mandates and recommendations.
  2. Develop and implement a rulemaking prioritization process that requires assessment of risk.
  3. Develop written agreements with the FAA, FMCSA, and FRA on appropriate coordination for rulemaking and the international standards development process. At a minimum, the agreements should cover roles and responsibilities, communication protocols, and required documentation on decisions.
  4. Provide guidance to OHMS on implementing its written agreements with other Operating Administrations.
  5. Develop and implement an internal policy on the dispute resolution process that includes criteria and timeframes for when to use the process.

These recommendations (except #3, which requires additional input from PHMSA) are considered by OIG to be resolved but open pending completion of the planned action.

PHMSA’s response is included as an appendix to the report, along with information on report methodology, prior audits and evaluations, and a chart of outstanding recommendations and mandates.

WinDOT the online pipeline encyclopedia contains complete information about PHMSA legislative mandates, rule-making activities and actions to address NTSB safety recommendations, including cross-references that help you put all the pieces together. Contact us today for a free trial.

PHMSA report: Data Analysis Procedure/Report for Mechanical Fitting Failures

The latest report on Mechanical Fitting Failure Reporting (MFFR) has been posted on PHMSA’s DIMP website at http://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/dimp/perfmeasures.htm. Analysis of Data from Required Reporting of Mechanical Fitting Failures that result in a Hazardous Leak (§192.1009) describes PHMSA’s methods and includes their annual analysis of MFFR data. Since data collection began in 2011, mechanical fittings have been involved in about 5.5% of the hazardous leaks eliminated or repaired.

An Advisory Bulletin will be forthcoming in 2017 to discuss the MFFR results after 5 years of information collection (IC). Rulemaking is in progress to address the name change of the IC activity from Mechanical Fitting Failure Reporting (MFFR) to Mechanical Joint Failure Reports (MJFR) to more accurately characterize that the IC activity is collecting data on hazardous leaks that involve a mechanical joint.

The report analyzes the data received from 2011-2015 and provides the following key take-aways excerpted from Section 4.1 Overview of Analysis at the end of the report.

Analysis of the MJFR data received to date is consistent with what was expected when we initiated this information collection activity and is consistent with other data sources (e.g., data from Gas Distribution annual reports). Data submitted for 2015 shows similar trends to previous 5 years of data collection, and trends in the data are within acceptable variance.

In summary, the majority of mechanical joint failures resulting in a hazardous leak involve nut-follower, coupling type fittings. In 2015, data analysis provides the following:

  • Equipment failure is the leading reported cause of leaks (42%), and Natural forces is second (18%)
  • Majority of leaks occur outside (99%), belowground (90%) involving service-to-service connections (62%)
  • Steel fittings (62%) are involved the majority of reports, and plastic fittings are second (25%)
  • Valves are involved in 13% of reported failures in 2015.

For the most part, we are seeing what was expected when we initiated this information collection activity with mechanical joint failures involving:

  • Mostly steel, mostly couplings, mostly belowground, and the number of reports being 10,000-15,000/year
  • Average time to failure by fitting material type of mechanical fittings in 2015 for steel is 46 years and for plastic is 26 years.

The data by PHMSA Regions shows upward trends in Central and Eastern Regions. The PHMSA Regions cover great distances both east to west and north to south. Differences in climate and stratigraphy in PHMSA Regions make drawing conclusions based on PHMSA Regions difficult at best. The MJFR Team thinks the state-by-state data is more meaningful for drawing conclusions as a particular state’s data could lead investigation into installation age and other particular meaningful variables. We also draw the reader’s attention to Tables 17-20 on the MJFR failure data by state and Table 28 for the operators reporting MJFRs by the year of the failure. The same number of operators are submitting MJFRs in 2015 as in previous years, and the data analysis does not provide a specific reason for the upward trend in the number of MJFRs submitted. The MJFR data should be discretely evaluated on a state-by-state and operator-by-operator level during regulatory inspections and during periodic evaluations (§192.1007(f)) performed in distribution integrity management programs by operators to meet regulatory requirements.

Mechanical Joint Failures are being identified in many Operators’ DIMPs as a significant threat requiring risk mitigation measures. The rate of hazardous leaks repaired involving a mechanical fitting for 2015 is the number of MFFR (12865) divided by the total number of hazardous leaks reported as eliminated/repaired in 2015 (213,684) which is 6% (up from 4.3 % in 2011).

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PIPES Act 2016 Signed by President Obama

Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act (S. 2276), a bipartisan bill that reauthorizes PHMSA until 2019, was signed into law today by President Obama.

The legislation was the product of work by the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. You can read the text of the enrolled bill here. This fact sheet provides an overview of key issues addressed by this legislation.

The bill was first introduced in the Senate in late 2015, and a House amendment was passed in early June that incorporated aspects of two other similar House Bills (H.R. 5050 and H.R. 4937) passed out of their committees in April, along with key provisions of the Natural Gas Leak Prevention Act of 2016 (H.R. 4429).

The President’s signature sets the clock ticking on various deadlines including these within the next 6 months:

  • The establishment of an Aliso Canyon natural gas leak task force by the Secretary of Energy. (within 15 days, with their report due within the next 180 days)
  • All vacancies on the Technical Pipeline Safety Standards Committee and the Technical Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Standards Committee must be filled by the Secretary of Transportation. (within 90 days, and thereafter when a vacancy occurs, within 60 days)
  • An advisory bulletin issued by the Secretary of Transportation to owners and operators of gas or hazardous liquid pipeline facilities and Federal and State pipeline safety personnel regarding procedures of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration required to change the status of a pipeline facility from active to abandoned, including specific guidance on the terms recognized by the Secretary for each pipeline status referred to in the bulletin. (within 90 days)
  • Regular reports by the Secretary of Transportation on outstanding regulations. (within 120 days and then every 90 days)
  • Formation by the Secretary of Transportation of a working group to study the development of a voluntary, secure information-sharing system. (within 180 days)
  • A report from the Secretary evaluating the Pipeline Safety Technical Assistance grants program under section 60130, title 49 USC. (within 180 days)

These other deadlines occur over the next two years:

  • A report by the Secretary of Transportation including recommendations on the consideration of technical, operational, and economic feasibility, on how to incorporate into existing damage prevention programs technological improvements and practices that help prevent excavation damage. (within 1 year)
  • A report by the Secretary of Transportation on the feasibility of establishing a national integrated pipeline safety regulatory inspection database to improve communication and collaboration between the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and State pipeline regulators. (within 1 year)
  • A review by the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation of PHMSA staff resource management. (within 1 year)
  • A report on the metrics provided to PHMSA and other Federal and State agencies related to lost and unaccounted for natural gas from distribution pipelines and systems from the PHMSA Administrator. (within 1 year)
  • A report by PHMSA on a review of and recommendations on Federal or State policies or best practices to improve safety by accelerating the repair and replacement of natural gas pipelines or systems that are leaking or releasing natural gas, and the potential impact of the implementation of those recommendations. (within 1 year, with implementation of regulations that the PHMSA Administrator determines appropriate within the next 1 year)
  • Reports from the Comptroller General with a review of Natural Gas Integrity Management and Hazardous Liquid Integrity Management programs under section 60109(c) of title 49, United States Code and 49 CFR 195.450 and 195.452, respectively. (within 18 months)
  • Issuance of minimum safety standards for underground natural gas storage facilities by the Secretary (in consultation with the heads of other relevant Federal agencies). (within 2 years)
  • A study by the Comptroller General of the United States on materials, training, and corrosion prevention technologies for gas and hazardous liquid pipeline facilities. (within 2 years)
  • A report from the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation  on the research and development program carried out by PHMSA under section 12 of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 (49 U.S.C. 60101 note). (within 18 months)
  •  A study from the Comptroller General on State pipeline safety agreements made pursuant to section 60106 of title 49, United States Code. (within 2 years)
  • A study on improving the safety of propane gas pipelines from the Secretary of Transportation. (within 2 years)
  • A study on odorization of all combustible gas carried by pipelines from the Comptroller General. (within 2 years)

At ViaData LP we can help you keep up with changes to pipeline safety regulations at the federal and state levels, from any device. You’ll find 49 CFR “soup to nuts” , from rulemaking activity to interpretations to enforcement, in WinDOT The Pipeline Safety Encyclopedia.

PHMSA and Information Sharing: The Road Ahead

Upcoming changes at PHMSA may improve information sharing for pipeline safety stakeholders.

At the 2013 Pipeline Pigging and Integrity Management Conference in Houston, Michael Rosenfeld (Kiefner & Assoc.) and Robert Fassett (Kleinfelder) presented a paper on pipeline ruptures that included the following observations on the usability of PHMSA’s incident data:

The reportable incident database does not provide data and incident investigation material that is accessible or visible enough to be used to see paradigm breaking trends that could identify new threats or interacting threats.

Sometimes during the investigation of a pipeline incident, PHMSA requires an operator to hire a third-party expert to perform the forensic engineering investigation for PHMSA’s review and inclusion with their investigation. During the research used to write this paper it was discovered that in order for the public to access such a report one must request it from PHMSA through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), or request it in writing from a state pipeline safety regulator. Important information that pipeline operators may need to learn from other pipeline operators’ experiences for the purpose of strengthening their integrity management programs is not readily visible.

Upcoming changes at PHMSA may provide a remedy as the agency seeks to continue a decade-long trend of standardizing and sharing information. And it is not only other operators who have an interest in looking at this data. State agencies and inspectors, other industry stakeholders (like developers of inspection systems and corrosion prevention technologies), research institutions and safety advocacy groups could all benefit.

In her written statement on March 1, 2016 before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Power Hearing on Examining Pipeline Safety Reauthorization, the Honorable Marie Therese Dominguez PHMSA Administrator wrote that PHMSA will:

… establish a pipeline Accident Investigations Division to investigate incidents and share lessons learned with all stakeholders to improve safety. PHMSA is in the process of finalizing the new Accident Investigation Division framework and resource construct, and anticipates initial stand-up later this year. The division will strengthen our capacity and focus on root cause investigations for all significant pipeline incidents and accidents; identify lessons learned and evaluate safety data for emerging trends; bring consistency to safety investigations; and enhance PHMSA’s training program for federal and state inspectors.

The Pipes Act of 2016, currently awaiting the signature of the President, also touches on the theme of information sharing by mandating the formation of a working group to “consider the development of a voluntary information-sharing system to encourage collaborative efforts to improve inspection information feedback and information sharing with the purpose of improving gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipeline facility integrity risk analysis.”

Within a year of its enactment, the act also requires the Secretary of Transportation to submit a report on the “feasibility of establishing a national integrated pipeline safety regulatory inspection database to improve communication and collaboration between the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and State pipeline regulators.”

This increased information sharing will help all who have a stake in learning from the past to make a safer future.

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PHMSA Releases Report on August 2015 Kiantone Pipeline Spill in West Seneca, New York

PHMSA has posted the report Failure Investigation Report: Kiantone Tank Line Leak, West Seneca New York.

The executive summary states:

“On August 25, 2015, the New York State Department of Public Service (NYSDPS) received notification of a product release at the Kiantone Pipeline Tank Facility located in West Seneca, NY. The leak was identified by a Kiantone employee at approximately 10:00 during a routine patrol. The leak was located near the base of Tank 703 within a diked area. Approximately 5 gallons of heavy crude oil was released. The cause of the incident was a cracked Weldolet branch connection fitting on a 2-inch NPS pump line. A bolted repair sleeve was installed, and the line was pressurized and monitored for 24 hours before being backfilled and returned to service. There were no evacuations, injuries, deaths, or property damage associated with this incident. “

PHMSA concluded that the cause of the failure was long-term natural force damage.

This update brought to you by ViaData, publishers of WinDOT™ The Pipeline Safety Encyclopedia.