Obama Signs New Pipeline Safety Bill; PHMSA starts rulemaking on EFVs

January 2012, Vol. 67 No. 1

Currently, intrastate pipelines must install EFVs for new single-family residential homes and on replacement lines for older homes, unless certain exceptions apply. That requirement was a direct result of congressional language included in the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement, and Safety (PIPES) Act of 2006. But the requirement falls considerable short of a June 2001 recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) which recommended ``that excess flow valves be installed in all new and renewed gas service lines, regardless of a customer's classification, when the operating conditions are compatible with readily available valves.''

The new pipeline safety bill says PHMSA can only require EFVs in lines serving buildings besides single family homes if that requirement is "economically, technically, and operationally feasible." The PHMSA published an "Interim Report" in April 2011 on installation of EFVs which was based on two public meetings it held on the subject in the summer of 2009. The report talks about the technical standards it believes need to be developed before any requirement can be instituted, if in fact any requirement is justified based on the economics. It also puts forward the possibility of mandating curb valves instead of EFVs for commercial and institutional buildings.

The American Gas Association would likely oppose a require to install EFVs on lines going to apartment building, institutional, commercial and industrial customers. Even the National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives is skittish about any such requirement saying it must "be carefully considered because of the variability in loads that can occur at such establishments."

FERC clarifies affiliate bidding rule
The FERC's policy clarification on which pipeline customers can file for capacity in a pipeline's open season went into effect in late December. Chief among those most affected are gas distribution companies, who protested the language in the proposed rule. The FERC did make one change to accommodate intrastate pipelines in the final rule, according to Andrew Soto, senior managing counsel for regulatory affairs, American Gas Association (AGA).