PHMSA is pursuing regulatory reform through an NPRM pertaining to liquid pipeline operators

PHMSA Introduces Regulatory Reform for Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

On April 16, 2020, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published to the federal registry a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) concerning liquid pipelines.

The goal of the proposed rulemaking, “Pipeline Safety: Regulatory Reform for Hazardous Liquid Pipelines,” is to amend the Federal Pipeline Safety Regulations at 49 CFR parts 190, 194, and 195 to reduce the regulatory burden on pipeline systems transporting hazardous liquids.

The proposed rule would introduce the following revisions to transporting hazardous liquids by pipeline:

  • Revise the requirements for Facility Response Plans.
  • Revise the definition for accidents.
  • Consider repealing, replacing, or modifying other specific regulations.

PHMSA stated that the intent of the proposed changes is to “reduce regulatory burdens and improve regulatory clarity without compromising safety and environmental protection.”

To complete the framework of the proposed rulemaking, PHMSA is soliciting comments from pipeline stakeholders and other interested parties through June 15. The public is encouraged to comment on proposed amendments in the rulemaking that also includes regulatory relief actions.

What Would Change in Each Part of 49 CFR?

In the proposed rulemaking, PHMSA outlined specific amendments to 49 CFR for parts 190, 194, and 195 that cover the requirements for transporting hazardous liquids. PHMSA is proposing to repeal, replace, or revise sections in each part to reduce regulatory burdens while also sharpening the focus on pipeline safety.

Proposed Amendments to 49 CFR Part 190

Part 190 (Pipeline Safety Enforcement and Regulatory Procedures) specifies procedures during inspections and investigations.

PHMSA is proposing to clarify the requirements for producing records during an inspection or investigation and reduce the burden required to submit confidential commercial information under most circumstances.

The proposed changes would clarify that new technology is permitted while ensuring that PHMSA can effectively enforce the Federal Pipeline Safety Regulations.

– There are several other elements included in the proposed rulemaking changes to 49 CFR Part 190. We recommend reviewing the full text starting on Page 7 of the NPRM.

Proposed Amendments to 49 CFR Part 194

Part 194 (Response Plans for Onshore Oil Pipelines) contains the requirements for preparing and submitting oil spill response plans.

PHMSA is proposing amendments that would streamline the oil spill response plan requirements and clarify or eliminate several requirements that may be confusing or redundant.

Ultimately, the proposed changes are intended to improve the clarity of the requirements and applicability of part 194, codify current policy, ensure consistency with other federal requirements and terminology, and reduce regulatory burdens without compromising safety.

One proposed terminology or definition change is removing the terms “substantial harm” and “significant and substantial harm” from the regulations. Currently, part 194 requires an operator to make a distinction between the types of potential harm an oil spill could cause.

PHMSA is recognizing that attempting to distinguish between the two events “creates unnecessary categories and some degree of burden to operators and PHMSA.” PHMSA is proposing to eliminate these terms, clarify the applicability of part 194, and eliminate a minor regulatory burden associated with justifying the appropriate determination.

– There are several other elements included in the proposed rulemaking changes to 49 CFR Part 194. We recommend reviewing the full text starting on Page 13 of the NPRM if this applies to your operation.

Proposed Amendments to 49 CFR Part 195

Part 195 (Transportation of Hazardous Liquids by Pipeline) prescribes the safety and reporting requirements for pipelines transporting hazardous liquids or carbon dioxide.

PHMSA is proposing amendments that would relieve accident reporting burdens, allow remote monitoring of rectifier stations, and clarify integrity management (IM) guidance.

One of the specific points included in the NPRM is adjusting the monetary damage criterion for pipeline accidents (both liquid and natural gas). The current standard is $50,000 in damages to trigger an official declaration of an “accident.” However, this threshold has not been adjusted for inflation since its inception in 1984 for gas pipeline accidents and inception for liquid pipeline accidents in 1994.

The goal is to adjust the threshold for both gas and liquid pipelines so that the property damage criteria remain consistent between gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. Notably, PHMSA intends to propose a similar change for reporting incidents on gas pipeline facilities in a separate regulatory action.

– There are several other elements included in the proposed rulemaking changes to 49 CFR Part 195. We recommend reviewing the full text starting on Page 42 of the NPRM.

Value of Electronic Recordkeeping to Satisfy PHMSA Requests

One of the most important aspects of the proposed rulemaking is the role of electronic recordkeeping and reporting for pipeline operators to satisfy PHMSA inspections and other requests.

PHMSA is mainly looking to maintain consistency between records. Therefore, PHMSA Is proposing to “place certain minimum standards on the capabilities of an operator’s record production and delivery systems.”

Specifically, PHMSA is proposing that if an operator uses an electronic record delivery system or similar technology, the electronic record delivery system or technology must meet the following requirements:

  • 1. Allow PHMSA to download and print all records on the portal from any U.S.-based internet access point without redacting or altering the document.
  • 2. Not remove or restrict document functionality that is available to the operator for each document.
  • 3. Provide PHMSA with a point of contact who is responsible for addressing reported problems with the system or any record displayed on the system.

For the third point, PHMSA noted that if the point of contact is not a site administrator, then PHMSA would expect the point of contact to have direct access to a site administrator responsible for fixing problems as expeditiously as possible.

EnerSys Support for Electronic Recordkeeping and Reporting

Pipeline operators that (a) currently use electronic recordkeeping and reporting or (b) would like to advance from paper records to electronic records have the opportunity to satisfy the PHMSA proposed rulemaking by working with our company.

Within our POEMS Control Room Management software suite (POEMS CRM Suite) are the tools to ensure compliance with CFR 49 Part 195.446. We also support operators by producing reports that exceed the PHMSA reporting requirements to validate pipeline operations, specifically in the control room.

We are confident in our software tools and pipeline industry expertise to help your organization meet compliance and safety objectives. We would appreciate the opportunity to further discuss our combination of software tools and consultation to support your operation.

To schedule an educational demo of our POEMS CRM Suite or to further discuss our consulting capabilities, contact us directly through our website, by calling 281-598-7100, or emailing