PHMSA published a final rule to amend the federal pipeline safety regulations to incorporate by reference new and updated editions of industry standards, among other non-substantive editorial corrections and clarifications.  The Agency incorporates various technical industry standards and design specifications into its regulations that, as a result, effectively will have the force of law as if they were published in the federal regulations.  These standards have not been updated in the regulations since 2010.

In the final rule, PHMSA updates 20 of the 64 standards currently incorporated by reference into 49 C.F.R. Parts 192, 193 and 195.  The updated standards primarily reflect incremental changes in design, maintenance and operation provisions.  Included among the standards to be updated are:  ANSI/API Specification 5L for Line Pipe (incorporating the December 2012 edition); ANSI/API Specification 6D for Pipeline Valves (to include subsequent errata); and, NACE SP05-02-2010 Pipeline External Corrosion Direct Assessment Methodology (incorporating the 2010 edition).  In addition, the Agency is incorporating two standards by reference that were not previously incorporated into the regulations:  API Recommended Practice for Truck Transportation of Line Pipe (2012 edition) and ASTM D2513-09a Standard Specification for Polyethylene (PE) Gas Pressure Pipe, Tubing and Fittings (2009 edition, except section 4.2).

Notably, the Agency expressly declined to incorporate the second edition of API RP 1162 Public Awareness Programs for Pipeline Operations; Section 6.4.3 of API Standard 653 Tank Inspection Repair Alteration and Reconstruction regarding establishing an alternative internal inspection interval; and section 4.2 of ASTM D2513-09a Standard Specification for Polyethylene (PE) Gas Pressure Pipe, Tubing and Fittings regarding rework material (thereby prohibiting the use of rework material for PE pipe).  In explaining its prohibition on the use of rework material for PE pipe, the Agency did “commit to engage with the manufacturers and other relevant stakeholders when discussing the use of plastic materials in oil and gas gathering lines.”  Final Rule, 80 Fed. Reg. 168, 175 (Jan. 5, 2015).  In addition, the Agency made non-substantive editorial corrections and clarifications, including providing instruction under 195.432(b) for operators who previously calculated alternative inspection intervals under API 653 and expressly stating that 195.452(a) requires operators to maintain integrity management records for the “useful life of pipe.”

In the preamble to this rulemaking, PHMSA provided an update on its compliance with the Pipeline Safety Act’s mandate that all documents that are incorporated by reference after January 3, 2013 be publicly available free of charge.  The Agency explained that it has negotiated agreements with all but two of the standards-setting organizations to make viewable copies publicly available free of charge and that those two remaining organizations are considering taking steps in addition to sales of the standards to achieve greater availability.

The rule will be effective March 6, 2015. Operators should review and update their operational manuals accordingly.