Section-By-Section Summary of Final Pipeline Safety Bill

By Frank Vlossak

The House and Senate have completed action on the “Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016” (S. 2276), with the House approving it by voice vote on June 8, and the Senate passing it by unanimous consent on June 13. The White House received the legislation on Thursday, June 16, and it is awaiting the President’s signature. S. 2276 reauthorizes the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) pipeline safety functions through September 30, 2019.

Among the more significant provisions in the legislation are: a requirement for PHMSA to promulgate regulations governing the safety of underground natural gas storage facilities (Section 12); and a grant of new pipeline safety emergency order authority to PHMSA (Section 16). PHMSA is already working on underground natural gas storage regulations. As described in the most recent “Unified Agenda for Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions”, “PHMSA is planning to issue an interim final rule to require operators of underground storage facilities for natural gas to comply with minimum safety standards, including compliance with” existing American Petroleum Institute recommended practices.

In addition to the underground natural gas storage provision, new regulatory mandates directed by the legislation include:

  • Requirements for hazardous liquid pipeline operators to provide safety data sheets (SDS) within six hours of an incident (Section 14);
  • Requirements for operators, in developing response plans, to “consider the impact of a discharge into or on navigable waters or adjoining shorelines, including those that may be covered in whole or in part by ice, and include procedures and resources for responding to such discharges in” their plans (Section 18);
  • Clarification of the requirements for abandoned pipelines (Section 23);
  • An annual inline inspection requirement for inland pipelines located below 150 feet of water (Section 25); and
  • A requirement for PHMSA to update the regulations governing “permanent, small scale liquefied natural gas pipeline facilities” (Section 27).

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