NTSB Head Pushes Expansion Of Transmission IM Program, Pipeline Accidents Raise Questions, EPA Improves GHG Reporting For Pipelines

August 2010 Vol. 65 No. 8

Currently, PHMSA has no regulatory authority over state one-call programs, which often revolve around "811" telephone numbers. PHMSA has some slight influence, however, since the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement and Safety Act of 2006 (PIPES Act) authorized PHMSA to award State Damage Prevention (SDP) grants to fund improvements in damage prevention programs. Since 2008, PHMSA provided over $4 million dollars in SDP grants to 30 distinct state organizations. To be eligible for a grant, a state program has to meet nine criteria laid out in the PIPES Act. One of those criteria is not inclusion of all excavators in the program. Many states have exemptions to their damage prevention one call rules for a variety of stakeholders including municipalities, state transportation departments, railroads, farmers and property owners.

"In order to provide the public with maximum protection, exemptions from state one-call programs should be strongly discouraged," Sypolt said. "We recommend that such one-call exemptions be a factor that PHMSA must consider when deciding whether to make annual state pipeline safety grants and one-call grants."

At the Senate hearings, Cynthia Quarterman, the PHMSA administrator, said she has been saying in her speeches that exemptions from one-call laws "are not something we believe are appropriate."

In addition to potentially using exemptions as a SDP grant eligibility criterion, PHMSA has the authority -- again, from the PIPES Act -- to enforce state one-call laws if the state itself isn't doing so. PHMSA finally got around to starting to flesh out regulations on enforcement of state laws last October when the agency issued what is called an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) asking for input on the criteria it should use to determine whether states are enforcing their one-call programs. One of the things PHMSA will almost assuredly consider in its analysis of state programs is whether they have exemptions for some excavators who are not required to call before they dig.

EPA Improves GHG Reporting For Pipelines, But Not Enough
Natural gas transmission companies say the EPA's revised mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting rule is better than an earlier version, but far from perfect. In the argot of the agency, its "Subpart W" proposed rule, issued in April, is an offshoot of the final GHG reporting rule the agency published last October. That final rule applied to most manufacturers and industrials. Subpart W pertains to Petroleum and Natural Gas Systems only, and is suppose to take their operational idiosyncrasies into account.