As previously reported, on April 23, 2013, PHMSA proposed changes to the hazardous liquid operators’ accident report (Form 7000-1) to require additional detail regarding “low consequence” releases (releases between 5 gallons and 5 barrels) and to revise instructions regarding spill and recovery volumes, time sequence, and NRC instructions. The notice contained a 60-day comment period, and during this time PHMSA received one joint comment from the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Association of Oil Pipelines (AOPL). On September 11, 2013, PHMSA issued a notice responding to the API/AOPL comment, and providing an additional 30-day comment period (78 F.R. 55775). The notice largely rejected many of the concerns raised by API/AOPL.
Most significantly, API/AOPL objected to PHMSA’s proposal to include all product exiting the system in both the ‘Volume Spilled’ and ‘Volume Recovered’ categories of the Form, and requested that volume exiting a system during a controlled event be excluded. PHMSA responded that it does not consider any product exiting the system at the failure location to be done in a controlled manner, and that counting all product exiting the system at the failure site provides the most accurate characterization of the consequences of the accident. PHMSA further explained that this change provides incentive for operators to remove product at locations away from the failure site whenever possible. API/AOPL also objected to the use of the phrase ‘‘when the operator became aware of the accident’’ to describe the earliest date and time an operator identifies a pipeline failure for purposes of the ‘time sequence’ section of Form 7000-1, and proposed that “discovery” of the failure be used instead – as “discovery” is used in other PHMSA regulations such as those applicable to Safety-Related Condition Reports. PHMSA responded that “awareness” was a sufficiently clear term for purposes of operators inputting the required time sequence information in Form 7000-1. With regard to instructions for Accident Preparers and Authorizers, API/AOPL suggested that PHMSA include a clear indication that the contact information of these parties would be available to the general public. PHMSA similarly dismissed these concerns, stating that “[a]ll data submitted by operators to PHMSA could potentially be made publicly available.”
PHMSA’s responses to API/AOPL comments appear to underscore an increasingly aggressive interpretation of release reporting obligations by the Agency, particularly with regard to volume calculations and report timing (see August 1, 2013 alert), as well as considerations regarding the availability and dissemination of sensitive operator information (see August 9, 2013 practice pointer). Additional comments to PHMSA’s proposed revisions to Form 7000-1 and the form instructions must be submitted on or before October 11, 2013, after which time PHMSA intends to submit the information collection revisions to OMB for approval.