In compliance with the January 3, 2013 deadlines set forth in the Pipeline Safety Act amendments passed last January, PHMSA recently made several new reports and guidance documents available.  In addition to the water crossings report discussed above, PHMSA issued interim guidance regarding the meaning of “new or novel technologies or design” that triggers cost recovery for design reviews under the statute (separate from the project cost threshold of $2.5 billion that also triggers cost recovery).  PHMSA clarified that this includes “any products, designs, materials, testing, construction, inspection, or operational procedures that are not addressed in […] Part 192, 193, or 195 due to technology or design advances and innovation,” and typically requires a special permit under the current regulations.
PHMSA also finalized various draft reports that it issued throughout the past year, regarding automatic and remote controlled shutoff valves and leak detection, to facilitate anticipated rulemakings regarding those issues in 2013.  With regard to cast iron pipelines, PHMSA issued a report to Congress explaining that at the end of 2011, there were 33,586 miles of cast iron gas distribution mains and 14,908 services in the U.S.  Main mileage has decreased by 16 percent since 2004, while service line mileage has decreased by 66 percent.  Additionally, PHMSA submitted a letter updating Congress that it has filled all 135 of its authorized enforcement and inspection personnel positions and issued a “Tribal Assistance Protocol” for consulting with Indian tribes to provide technical assistance for the regulation of pipelines under the jurisdiction of Indian tribes.  Lastly, it appears that the Government Accounting Office (GAO) has three outstanding reports that were due to Congress on January 3, 2013 regarding the following topics (1) transmission operators response to releases in high consequence areas (HCAs); (2) process for obtaining federal and State permits for pipeline construction projects; and (3) minority-owned, women-owned, and disadvantaged businesses involved in the construction and operation of pipeline facilities.  Click here to access the PHMSA reports from PHMSA’s website.