Washington Watch

The July 10, 2012, preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on the major oil leak from an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan in July 2010 faults the company's operational and training procedures in numerous instances.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a Spectra pipeline project which will bring new natural gas supplies to New York City. Spectra subsidiaries Texas Eastern and Algonquin will combine to build the new capacity, which will involve about 20 miles of pipeline, among other construction, such as compressor stations, with the total project weighing in at about $850 million. Texas Eastern and Algonquin hope to have the gas flowing into Manhattan by November 2013.

The Obama administration took its first two regulatory steps -- one final, one tentative -- toward guarding against air and ground water pollution from fracking.

With congressional funding of the state revolving funds likely to continue to decline, water infrastructure groups are pushing an alternative funding mechanism -- meant to serve as a supplement to the SRFs, not a replacement -- called a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Fund.

Obama administration budget requests for fiscal 2013 for key pipeline regulatory and construction programs are working their way through congressional appropriation committees. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) would receive new funding for additional inspectors, allowing the agency to do more intensive inspections of pipeline safety.

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.

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.

The pipeline safety bill President Obama signed in December gives PHMSA new latitude to expand integrity management requirements and require new industry safety measures such as automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves.

The Federal Communications Commission is setting aside $300 million in 2012 as a down payment for phone companies in rural areas to build wireline broadband connections.

Syndicate content