New Federal Water Infrastructure Funding Mechanism Proposed

May 2012, Vol. 67 No. 5

At the hearings on March 21 in the same water resources subcommittee, Karen Massey, director, Missouri Environmental Improvement and Energy Resources Authority, said the direct loans and loan guarantees anticipated to be issued through the WIFIA would result in impacts that "are likely to be relatively modest."

PHMSA Proposes Metrics for State Damage Prevention Laws

The Pipeline Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration (PHMSA) took the next step in its continuing effort to step in when states fail to punish excavators who damage pipelines. The 2006 PIPES Act gave PHMSA the authority to take civil enforcement action against excavators in states whose damage prevention laws are weak. But first, PHMSA has to define "weak." The proposed rule PHMSA issued on April 2 describes some of the "metrics" it might use in making that determination.

If PHMSA decides a state fails to enforce, then Section 2 of the PIPES Act allows it to take civil enforcement action against excavators who: fail to use a state's one-call notification system; and disregard location information or markings established by a pipeline, or fail to report excavation damage promptly.

The metrics PHMSA wants to use in making a "fail to enforce" decision might include determining whether a state is imposing civil penalties at levels sufficient to ensure compliance, whether an adequate damage reporting system is in place, the quality of the state investigations related to excavation accidents and whether the state law mandates use of a one-call system by excavators and requires immediate reporting of damage.

A big issue, from the standpoint of the pipeline industry, is the exemptions from one-call systems often offered on a state-by-state basis. The Pipeline Security, Job Creation and Regulatory Certainty Act of 2011, passed unanimously by Congress and signed into law by the President in January, said state damage prevention programs should not exempt agencies of state and local governments (public works departments, for example) from calling damage prevention hotlines before excavating, and required a study of the threat to safety caused by other one-call exemptions. The proposed rule issued by PHMSA does not require states, cities and counties to eliminate other one-call exemptions.

Pipeline, Electric Utilities Duel Over Reliability And Integration; Rate Structure At Issue