regulations

With Congress having passed a pipeline safety bill last December, you'd think the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has plenty to do implementing that law during 2012.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the state of Illinois announced a Clean Water Act (CWA) settlement with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) to resolve claims that untreated sewer discharges were released into Chicago area waterways during flood and wet weather events.

Stephen Barlas, Washington Editor

The One-Call and excavation damage provisions included in the new pipeline safety bill passed by Congress in December will trigger a number of state and federal responses in 2012. However, a rule allowing the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to impose civil penalties on excavators -- ordered by the 2006 pipeline safety bill but never finalized -- would be even more significant. A proposed rule moving that requirement forward is expected this year, finally, perhaps as early as this winter.

Natural gas transmission companies are very unhappy with the EPA's decision to tighten industry air emission limits. A consent decree signed by the EPA requires the agency to revise both New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) for the natural gas industry, including for pipelines, by the end of February. Those are two separate EPA regulatory programs.

Two House committees are attempting to combine slightly different pipeline safety bills while Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is preventing a Senate vote on a bill passed by the Commerce Committee last May. All three bills are moderate, and make changes around the edges of current law, both with regard to natural gas and oil pipelines.

The pipeline safety recommendations issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Aug. 30 puts significant pressure on both Congress and the Obama administration to respond to the problems discovered as part of the NTSB investigation of the PG&E San Bruno explosion in December 2010.

Moody's Investors Service, one of the world’s leading credit rating agencies, affirmed in July Atlanta, GA’s A1 rating on the city’s $3.2 billion water and wastewater revenue bonds.

In an effort to avoid filing the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, officials in Alabama’s Jefferson County extended until mid-September talks with creditors holding $3.14 billion in debt incurred after officials borrowed money to fix their troubled sewer system and then entered into a number of complicated and corruption-laced refinancing deals that backfired in 2007 with the mortgage lending crisis. Those schemes also resulted in the conviction of a number of local officials and businessmen.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently unveiled a new interactive web tool to help users determine whether injuries and illnesses are work-related and recordable under the OSHA Recordkeeping rules.

A study by Duke University researchers has found high levels of leaked methane in well water collected near shale-gas drilling and hydrofracking sites.

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