Federal Excavation Requirements Imminent

February 2013, Vol. 68 No. 2

One of the amendments the committees adopted appears to give the INGAA about 80 percent of what it sought. The provision directs the PHMSA to add a "stop work" requirement for state laws which says excavators must stop work until "the pipeline has had an opportunity to assess the damage." It doesn't say the excavator must wait until the pipeline approves resumption of digging.

Other criteria in the April proposed rule would have required excavators to use an available One-Call system prior “to commencing excavation activity where an underground gas or hazardous liquid pipeline may be present.” The INGAA argued that this would allow excavators to claim "ignorance" for not calling a One-Call system based on the fact that they didn't know a pipeline was buried in the area. The advisory committees agreed with that concern and ordered the PHMSA to eliminate the possibility of a claim of ignorance when it publishes the final rule.

The advisory committees also approved a new criterion which requires state laws to cover individuals digging on their own property. That addition was sought by the INGAA and also the National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives (NAPSR).

One of the industry's big concerns was not addressed by the advisory committees -- One Call exemptions states grant to government and private parties. The criterion in the April proposed rule was: "Does the state limit exemptions for excavators from its excavation damage prevention law? A state must provide to PHMSA a written justification for any exemptions for
excavators from state damage prevention requirements. PHMSA will make the written justifications available to the public."

The advisory committees did not authorize changes to that language. Hans Mertens, administrative manager at NAPSR, says exemption language is important. But he adds, "PHMSA recognizes that a blanket requirement may be counter-productive."

EPA, Off-Site Repairs To Compression Turbines

Intrastate and interstate pipelines are unhappy with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed rule which would subject offsite repair of compressor station turbines to new regulatory restrictions. The proposal would affect provisions under New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for Stationary Combustion Turbines, known as Subpart KKKK. The EPA has been trying to make changes to Subpart KKKK since 2006, an effort complicated by the court challenges.