Two recent PHMSA-sponsored publications emphasize stakeholder advance planning as key to reducing the likelihood and consequences of pipeline incidents. The first, a Guide for Communicating Emergency Response Information for Natural Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipelines, was published in 2014 by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) under contract with PHMSA as a resource on pre-incident information sharing between pipeline operators and emergency response planners. The second, Hazard Mitigation Planning: Practices for Land Use Planning and Development Near Pipelines, was prepared in 2015 by the Pipeline and Informed Planning Alliance (PIPA) and sponsored by PHMSA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a guide for State and local governments in considering hazard mitigation strategies for proposed land development near existing gas and hazardous liquid transmission pipelines. Both guidance documents emphasize the importance of stakeholders using available resources to understand the potential impacts of a pipeline incident and working collaboratively to minimize those impacts.
The TRB Guide is a planning tool for pipeline operators and emergency responders to be used in facilitating pre-incident communications. Building upon insights gained from past pipeline incidents, the Guide explains how delays or lapses in communication can exacerbate the consequences of an incident. Specifically, the Guide explains several obstacles to adequate communication that played a role in past incidents, such as timeliness of communication, the availability of information about the extent of a release and initial on-scene conditions, and various behavioral factors (such as ‘confirmation bias,’ identified by NTSB as a factor in the Marshall, Michigan pipeline incident and described as the situation where a person’s strongly held beliefs prevent attentiveness to subsequent communications).
The Guide suggests a role-based approach for understanding the flow of information during an incident, and the functions and information needs associated with specific roles. It also details a framework for developing and implementing communication plans to ensure that appropriate information is communicated in advance of a pipeline emergency, and that information needs are met in the event of an incident.
PIPA Hazard Mitigation Planning
Similar to the TRB Guide, the PIPA Hazard Mitigation Practices emphasize stakeholder planning, with the goal of reducing risks associated with land development in close proximity to existing hazardous liquid and gas transmission pipelines. PIPA was formed by PHMSA in 2007 to develop land use best practices, with a focus on reducing the potential risks of pipeline incidents. In looking for ways to encourage stakeholders to implement its recommended practices, PIPA recognized their compatibility with local government hazard mitigation plans required under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5165 et seq.) and regulations administered by FEMA.
The Hazard Mitigation Practices were developed by PIPA in coordination with PHMSA and FEMA for use by State, local, and tribal governments in their hazard mitigation planning. The guidance emphasizes ways in which local governments can (and cannot, due to the federal preemption doctrine, which is discussed in the Appendix) use their land use and development authorities to influence development near existing transmission pipelines.
The Hazard Mitigation Practices provide a practical, step-by-step approach for local authorities to access and review essential resources for hazard identification, to assess risks associated with transmission pipelines in the community, and to develop a mitigation plan. The guidance suggests several ways in which local governments may mitigate pipeline risks: public education; effective excavation damage prevention programs; risk-informed planning, design, and construction of developments near transmission pipelines; and development and coordination of emergency response planning and preparedness. It also details several strategies for use by local authorities in hazard mitigation planning associated with future or current land use and development, including: (1) pipeline identification and mapping; (2) pipeline knowledge and education; (3) pipeline land records; (4) facilitation of stakeholder communications; (5) land use and development planning management practices; (6) excavation damage prevention practices; and (7) mitigation measures from natural hazards.