New FAQs on PHMSA/OSHA Boundaries for Regulatory Oversight at Midstream Facilities have been developed and presented to PHMSA management for final approval. The 7 new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) were presented to PHMSA management and the Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) for both the liquid and gas industries at a meeting in D.C. at the end of August 2015. The FAQs are intended to avoid gaps or overlaps in regulatory oversight of midstream facilities, and provide more certainty to both the regulated community and state and federal agencies.
The draft FAQs define midstream processing, then confirm that PHMSA 49 C.F.R. Part 192/195 oversight will end, and OSHA Process Safety Management (PSM) oversight will begin, at the first pressure control device entering a processing facility, with PHMSA oversight beginning again at the last pressure control device leaving the facility. Any pipelines that simply bypass pressure control devices or pass through such midstream facilities without pressure control remain under PHMSA jurisdiction at all times. Underground storage of product and associated piping remain under OSHA PSM oversight if the storage is solely or predominantly associated with the processing facility activities. If the storage and associated piping is used solely or predominantly for transportation purposes, however, it remains under PHMSA oversight. In sum, these new FAQs essentially confirm existing practices at most facilities, and are consistent with prior guidance letters issued by PHMSA over the years. The new FAQs clarify agency and industry understanding, however, and reflect confirmation of this approach by all parties.
PHMSA Associate Administrator Jeff Wiese created a Midstream Facility Safety Subcommittee under the TACs in 2014 to address multi-agency boundaries at midstream facilities. The Subcommittee was comprised of one representative from each TAC (Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee and Liquid Pipeline Advisory Committee), three senior representatives from industry at large, PHMSA and OSHA (and including members of the Hunton & Williams Pipeline Practice Group as facilitator-representatives on behalf of industry). Although the FAQs only constitute guidance, and do not affect existing statutes or rules, they reflect Agency policy and priorities for inspections and enforcement, and help clarify regulatory expectations for operators. Jeff Weise and others expressed appreciation for the Subcommittee’s work on this issue, as it represents an effective way to use informal dialogue to address potential problems more efficiently than through prolonged and costly litigation.
The draft FAQs have already been made public and posted on the PHMSA website (see above link to the PHMSA TAC presentations). Pipeline and facility operators are encouraged to review the FAQs and confirm the locations at their facilities where PHMSA/OSHA oversight changes.