Pipeline VOC Emission Limits Soon To Be Finalized; EPA Makes Changes To Pipeline GHG Reporting Rule

February 2012, Vol. 67 No. 2

The agency made it clear that it includes within the onshore natural transmission compression facility segment not only those facilities that move natural gas from production fields or gas processing plants, but also those that move gas coming from other transmission compressors. In addition, the agency stated explicitly that gas transmission compression facilities not only move gas into distribution pipelines, but also into liquefied natural gas storage or into underground storage.

PHMSA proposed safety changes raise questions

All the attention paid to passage of the new congressional pipeline safety bill obscured the smaller bore, yet in some instances controversial, regulatory changes PHMSA wants to make on its own. The proposed changes PHMSA announced at the end of November affect such things as the performance of post-construction inspections; leak surveys of Type B onshore gas gathering lines; the requirements for qualifying plastic pipe joiners; and the transportation of pipe.

The proposals are relatively minor in that they do not impose new recordkeeping or operational requirements, except in a couple of instances. But the proposals have already produced some controversy.

One proposal would prohibit anyone who participated in the construction of a gas distribution, transmission of hazardous liquid pipeline from inspecting the pipeline. Here, the PHMSA is responding to a request from the National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives (NAPSR) to inject a greater amount of "independence" into the inspection requirement. But NAPSR asked for the prohibition to extend to any contractor, not "anyone who participated in the construction of the pipeline."

John W. Roberts, president, professional engineers in California government (PECG), says his group is greatly concerned that this language leaves the regulation open for interpretation that the same contractor can inspect the work as long as it’s not inspected by an employee who participated in the construction. "PECG believes PHMSA should incorporate stronger regulatory language that prohibits contractors from inspecting the work of other contractors, and instead requires a public inspector to be responsible for the construction inspection of natural gas transmission pipelines," he says. That is necessary, he adds, based on the "tragic events of San Bruno in 2010 which show that it’s absolutely critical that federal and state agencies step up their involvement in the physical inspection of the state’s natural gas pipeline network."