Federal law allows administrative agencies to adopt industry consensus standards into rules, giving such standards the force and effect of law.  PHMSA incorporates numerous technical standards into its regulations (there are 64 standards presently incorporated into 49 C.F.R. Parts 192, 193 and 195).  The Pipeline Safety Act amendments of 2012 directed the Agency to limit its adoption of technical standards, beginning in 2014, to those standards that are available to the public without cost.  (For additional background information, see August 1, 2013 and August 12, 2013 alerts.)  That directive has proven challenging for the Agency, as many standards committees fund their activities through sale of final standards.  In addition to the ‘publicly available’ challenge, PHMSA often picks and chooses among various editions and updates of technical standards, making it critical that operators pay close attention to which version of a standard is incorporated into the rules.

With that background, PHMSA has announced that the Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee (GPAC) and Liquid Pipeline Advisory Committee (LPAC) will participate in a joint session by telephone conference call on December 17, 2013 to consider additional standards for adoption78 Fed. Reg. 70623 (November 26, 2013).  These two technical safety standards committees advise PHMSA on the technical feasibility, practicability, and cost-effectiveness of proposed safety standards, as required by the Pipeline Safety Act.  49 U.S.C. 60115(c)(2).  

The purpose of this public meeting is to consider a recently proposed rule to incorporate by reference one new standard and portions of another, as well as 21 updated editions of standards currently referenced in 49 CFR Parts 192, 193, and 195 (for more information, see August 16, 2013 alert).  Members of the public may participate via telephone conference, but those wishing to make a statement at the meeting must notify PHMSA in advance by December 10, 2013.