2023 PHMSA Enforcement Actions Overview: Control Room Findings

PHMSA Enforcement Actions Blog Image EnerSys January 2024

At EnerSys, we’re focused on promoting operational effectiveness, pipeline safety and Natural Compliance for operators. We regularly publish resources that are designed to remove all the noise and help organizations achieve these goals. In this blog series, we will unpack our findings from our review of the PHMSA Enforcement Actions released throughout 2023, share valuable lessons learned, and provide practical solutions to common violations. 

This annual blog series centers around issues related to Control Room Management, with particular attention to findings and violations aligned with the Control Room Management Rule (49 CFR 192.631 for the transport of natural gas and 195.446 for the transport of hazardous liquids). 

The PHMSA Enforcement Actions page encompasses various levels of enforcement types initiated by PHMSA against pipeline owners and operators – including: Corrective Action Orders, Notice of Probably Violations, Notice of Amendments, Warning Letters, and Notices of Proposed Safety Orders. 

Enforcement Mechanisms

Corrective Action Order

PHMSA issues Corrective Action Orders (CAO) if a pipeline poses a hazard, specifying required actions for operators. CAOs are often prompted by accidents, with operators needing to comply with rigorous inspections and preventive measures before resuming normal operations. 

Notice of Proposed Safety Order 

If PHMSA identifies a pipeline facility with conditions posing integrity risks to safety or the environment, a Notice of Proposed Safety Order (NOPSO) may be issued. The NOPSO outlines the identified risks, legal basis, required corrective actions, completion date, and response options, allowing the operator 30 days to respond, including the option for informal consultation or a hearing. 

Notice of Amendment

If PHMSA determines that an operator’s plans or procedures under federal pipeline safety regulations are inadequate, a Notice of Amendment (NOA) may be issued, specifying alleged inadequacies and proposed revisions. The operator has 30 days to submit written comments, revised procedures, or request a hearing after receiving the notice. 

Notice of Probable Violation (Warning Letter)

If PHMSA uncovers evidence of a pipeline safety regulation violation through inspection or other sources, it initiates an enforcement proceeding by issuing a Notice of Probable Violation (NOPV) to the operator. The NOPV outlines alleged violations, presents evidence, and offers response options, including the right to a hearing. It may propose civil penalties or a Compliance Order, specifying corrective actions. In certain cases, PHMSA may issue a written warning for potential violations, indicating necessary corrections without requiring a response. 

Overview of 2023 PHMSA Enforcement Actions Control Room Findings by Section

  • Section A (General Requirements) – 13 Findings 
  • Section B (Roles and Responsibilities) – 13 Findings 
  • Section C (Provide Adequate Information) – 33 Findings 
  • Section D (Fatigue Mitigation) – 7 Findings 
  • Section E (Alarm Management) – 23 Findings 
  • Section F (Change Management) – 4 Findings 
  • Section G (Operating Experience) – 2 Findings 
  • Section H (Training) – 23 Findings 
  • Section I (Compliance Validation) – 1 Finding 
  • Section J (Compliance and Deviations) – 11 Findings 

Total – 130 Findings 

Overview of 2023 PHMSA Enforcement Actions Control Room Findings by Severity 

  • Warning Letter – 37 
  • Notice of Amendment – 67 
  • Proposed Civil Penalty – 30 
  • Proposed Compliance Order – 43 

Total – 177 *certain violations received more than one enforcement level 

Comparing 2023 to Previous Years 

Overall, 2023 saw a significant drop in the total number of control room-related findings compared to 2022. From 240 down to only 130, the over 45% drop in findings indicates a change in the compliance posture across the industry – something we will explore more in future entries in this series.  

There were notable reductions in findings related to Section A (80% Decrease YoY) and Section E (54% Decrease YoY). Section H (Training) and Section C (Provide Adequate Information) saw smaller reductions in findings from the previous year – down 8% and 13% respectively.  

 2023 2022 2021 
Section A 13 66 25 
Section B 13 25 14 
Section C 33 38 22 
Section D 11 
Section E 23 50 37 
Section F 11 
Section F 
Section H 23 25 38 
Section I 
Section J 11 11 10 
Total 130 240 163 

Our next entries in the PHMSA Enforcement Actions Series will break down the control room findings by each section of the rule and include: 

  1. Lessons Learned from 2023
  2. Relevant EnerSys Solutions 
  3. Your Next Steps 

Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter so you’re notified when future posts are released. 

EnerSys can help you with a pre-audit review to help determine the effectiveness of your current CRMP and help you start to close identified gaps. Call us at 281-598-7100 to speak with EnerSys General Manager Ross Adams or VP of Business Development Dale Schafer. You can also contact us via email at sales@enersyscorp.com or complete our website contact form to get started.