PHMSA Issues Interim Final Rule To Implement Expanded Authority to Issue Emergency Orders, Improve Pipeline Safety

U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, October 4, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) today issued an Interim Final Rule ("IFR") to implement the agency's expanded authority to address unsafe pipeline conditions or practices that pose an imminent hazard to life, property, or the environment. The regulations adopt a provision of the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines Enhancing Safety Act of 2016 (PIPES Act), that allows the agency to impose emergency restrictions, prohibitions, and safety measures on owners and operators of gas or hazardous liquid pipeline facilities to address safety concerns affecting multiple owners or operators.

"Pipeline incidents can have devastating impacts on local communities and the environment," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "The new regulations carry out DOT's enhanced authority to compel industry to take immediate action to address problems that put people, property, or the environment at risk. We hope we never have to use it, but it is an important safety tool that will result in greater protection for the American public."

Examples of when PHMSA may need to use this enhanced authority include instances where a serious manufacturing flaw has been discovered in pipe, equipment or other materials, or when an accident reveals a specific industry practice that is unsafe and needs immediate correction.

"We recognize the critical role that pipelines play in our everyday lives - they deliver important resources, and support our economy and way of life," said PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez. "Pipelines also operate in close proximity to people, homes, businesses, and sensitive environmental areas. This new authority gives PHMSA the ability to act quickly to address urgent safety concerns, and to protect people and the environment."

The IFR is effective once posted to the Federal Register, and comments must be received within 60 days of publication.

The IFR has been transmitted to the Federal Register and will be published in 7-10 days. A preview of the IFR transmitted by PHMSA is available HERE.

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