PHMSA Proposes New Safety Regulations for Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, October 6, 2015

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transporation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced proposed regulations to make critical safety improvements for hazardous liquid pipelines. The proposed regulations seek to strengthen the way hazardous liquid pipelines are operated, inspected and maintained in the United States.

"Hazardous liquid pipelines crisscross the country and pipeline failures can have profound impacts on local communities and the environment," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "This proposed rule is an important step forward to enhance safety, and protect people and the environment."

The proposed rule would require that all hazardous liquid pipelines have a system for detecting leaks and establish a timeline for inspections of affected pipelines following an extreme weather event or natural disaster. These inspections would allow operators to quickly identify and repair post-event leaks and other damage to pipelines. The proposed rule would require operators to annually evaluate the protective measures they have implemented on pipeline segments that operate in High Consequence Areas where pipeline failures have the highest potential for human or environmental damage, and implement additional measures as necessary. It would also set a deadline to require the use of internal inspection tools where possible for any new and replaced pipeline that could affect an HCA.

The proposed rule would improve the quality and frequency of tests used to assess the condition of pipelines and establish more strict repair guidelines for high-risk pipelines. The proposed regulations would modify repair and replacement criteria under PHMSA's risk-based management framework by expanding the list of conditions that require immediate repair, establishing shorter repair timelines for critical repairs, and tightening the standards for pressure tests.

"The proposed rule would significantly change the way operators manage risk and promote the safe operation of the almost 200,000 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines in the United States," said PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez. "The new requirements would strengthen the standards that determine how operators repair aging and high-risk infrastructure, increase the quality and frequency of tests that assess the condition of pipelines, and require that all hazardous liquid pipelines have a system to detect leaks."

The proposed regulations include 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 proposed regulations address four congressional mandates, two NTSB recommendations, and a GAO recommendation that PHMSA gather information and incident history for onshore hazardous liquid gathering lines to determine if stronger regulations are needed.

The notice of proposed rulemaking has been transmitted to the Federal Register for publication. An actual date of publication will be determined by the Federal Register, but a preview of the rulemaking proposal transmitted by PHMSA is available on the agency's website.

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


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