FERC Investigates Pipeline Rates; PHMSA Rejects INGAA Pleas

January 2011 Vol. 66 No. 1

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) had argued in 2009, after the PHMSA put out a proposed rule, that the 3,000 Mcf threshold would cause its members to file incident reports for a significant number of the low risk pinhole and fitting leaks, which are presently reported in the annual report. "The number of incident reports, and the cost of reporting, will increase sharply, and the incident database, which has proven useful in policy analysis and development, will lose its continuity," argued Dan Regan, INGAA's regulatory attorney and Terry D. Boss, senior vice president for environment, safety and operations.

The reporting changes imposed on pipelines are the result of recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Government Accounting Office (GAO) and Section 15 of the PIPES Act of 2006.

PHMSA Wants To Move Deadline For Control Room Management
Interstate pipelines think some aspects of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) proposed "speed up" of its new pipeline controller safety requirements are irresponsible. PHMSA issued the final control room management rule in December 2009. Pipelines were suppose to have developed programs by Aug. 1, 2011 and implemented them by Feb. 1, 2013.

But out of nowhere, on Sept. 17, 2010, PHMSA said it wants to expedite the program implementation deadline to Aug. 1, 2011 for most of the requirements. The agency's reason for wanting to move up the implementation deadlines is that it believes "most of the effort to comply with many of the provisions will have already been completed by the Aug. 1, 2011."

Very few companies agree with that assessment. Most interstate and intrastate pipelines do agree that the control room management rule is perfectly fine with its original deadlines. But almost no one thinks moving the implementation deadline up to Aug. 1, 2011 is a good idea. Count Patrick Carey, director of D.O.T. compliance services with El Paso Pipeline Group, in the skeptic category. He says the industry will be hiring about 200 new controllers to comply with the new shift length, rotation and hour of service limitations in the final rule. Training those new employees will take time and will not be complete by Aug. 1, 2011, Carey states. He says El Paso can support an expedited implementation schedule, just not the one the PHMSA suggested.