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Category Archives: Enforcement

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Pipelines Subject to Higher Penalties under New PHMSA Civil Penalty Policy

Posted in Administrative Guidance, Enforcement, PHMSA, Pipeline Safety Act, Policy
On October 11, 2016, PHMSA released a Policy Statement notifying owners and operators of oil and gas pipelines that it is finally making its civil penalty framework publicly accessible, and that respondents may now request proposed civil penalty calculations in enforcement actions.… Continue Reading

Pipeline Blast Highlights Necessity of Proper Abandonment Procedures

Posted in Enforcement, Integrity Management, Natural Gas, Operation & Maintenance, Pipeline Safety Act
A previously abandoned natural gas pipeline exploded in Seattle, Washington on March 9, 2016, injuring nine firefighters, destroyed two buildings, and damaged multiple nearby structures.  The entity responsible for regulating intrastate and interstate gas pipelines in the state, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, recently released a report from its investigation of the incident, concluding that… Continue Reading

Emergency Order Interim Regulations Released

Posted in Administrative Rulemaking, Enforcement, PHMSA, Pipeline Safety Act
Taking the first step to implement its new emergency order authority, PHMSA has issued an interim final rule which will be effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. Final rules must be issued by March 19, 2017, but PHMSA will accept and consider comments filed within 60 days of publication. … Continue Reading

Pipe Subject to Safety Regulations Until Formally Abandoned: PHMSA Advisory

Posted in Administrative Guidance, Enforcement, Natural Gas, Operation & Maintenance, PHMSA, Recordkeeping, Reporting Obligations
PHMSA issued an advisory to operators regarding the applicability of its safety regulations to idled, inactive and abandoned pipe. Congress directed PHMSA to issue such an advisory in the recent PIPES Act of 2016, in response to several high profile incidents involving idled pipe. … Continue Reading

Pipeline Safety Field Hearing Provides Insight to PHMSA Priorities; Second Hearing Scheduled

Posted in Enforcement, Environmental, Federal/ State Legislation, Integrity Management, PHMSA, Pipeline Safety Act
As the September 30th deadline for the Pipeline Safety Act reauthorization draws near, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation convened a pipeline safety field hearing in Billings, Montana and recently scheduled a second hearing for September 29th in Washington, DC. … Continue Reading

New Pipeline Construction Issues: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Considers Allowing Incidental Takes Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Posted in Administrative Rulemaking, Construction & Design, Enforcement, Environmental
Construction of new pipeline (especially gas) or other energy infrastructure often encounters issues arising from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA or Act). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS or the Service) recently announced its intent to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of a proposal to authorize incidental takes of birds under the MBTA.… Continue Reading

Pipeline Law 2015: The Year Of Living Uncertainly

Posted in Administrative Rulemaking, Enforcement, PHMSA, Pipeline Safety Act
The US oil and gas industry has been transformed over the past few years by development of new shale resources. The US is now the world’s largest producer of natural gas and on track to be the world’s largest producer of oil. These changes have affected America’s energy future, as well as global markets.… Continue Reading

Criminal Plea Serves as a Reminder of Harsh Penalties for “Knowing and Willful” Pipeline Safety Violations

Posted in Enforcement, Operation & Maintenance, Pipeline Safety Act
As a stark reminder of the availability of criminal sanctions for violations of federal pipeline safety regulations, a pipeline corrosion monitor has pleaded guilty to charges brought under the federal Pipeline Safety Act (49 U.S.C. 60101 et seq.) and faces up to 15 years in prison and $750,000 in fines. … Continue Reading

Industry Performance Statistics Illustrate Improvements in Pipeline Safety

Posted in Enforcement, Integrity Management, PHMSA, Policy
As part of a 2014 industry initiative, the Association of Oil Pipelines and the American Petroleum Institute prepared its first “Annual Liquid Pipeline Safety Performance Report” (the Report).  Despite several high profile pipeline incidents in the past few years and increased PHMSA enforcement activity, these statistics reflect that PHMSA pipeline safety regulations and industry efforts… Continue Reading

New Emergency Order and Safety Advisory Affecting Crude Shipments by Rail

Posted in Administrative Guidance, Enforcement, PHMSA
The DOT has issued an Emergency Order requiring that railroads operating trains carrying more than 1,000,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil (approximately 35 tank cars) in a particular state must notify the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) of the expected movement of such trains through the counties in that state. … Continue Reading

PHMSA Publicizes Enforcement Record, Seeks to Cut Staff

Posted in Enforcement, PHMSA
In a recent press release, PHMSA announced that it sought $9.7 million in civil penalties against pipeline operators in 2013, the highest annual amount in the Agency’s history.  This follows a trend of increasing penalty assessments by the Agency, which has proposed more than $33 million in penalties since 2009.  By comparison, PHMSA sought $23 million… Continue Reading

Creating a Record for Enforcement Hearings: New PHMSA Policy Mandates Use of Court Reporters

Posted in Administrative Rulemaking, Enforcement, PHMSA, Pipeline Safety Act, Practice Pointers
Creating a record in PHMSA enforcement actions is an important step toward protecting and preserving the legal rights of pipeline owners and operators.  If an operator seeks judicial review of the Agency’s final decision in an enforcement action, the administrative record will be a key component of the case.  The Pipeline Safety Act requires that… Continue Reading

PHMSA Promulgates Final Rule Regarding Agency Enforcement Procedures

Posted in Administrative Rulemaking, Enforcement, PHMSA, Pipeline Safety Act, Policy
PHMSA has issued a final rule making several significant changes to the Agency's enforcement procedures. See attached Federal Register pre-publication release of PHMSA Final Rule (Sept. 24, 2013). While this rule purports to comply with various Congressional mandates set forth in the 2012 amendments to the Pipeline Safety Act, it effectively increases and establishes some new Agency enforcement tools. … Continue Reading

PHMSA Rules That Releases Must Be Reported Before They Are “Reportable”

Posted in Enforcement, Judicial/ Administrative Decisions, PHMSA, Pipeline Safety Act, Reporting Obligations
In a decision that has significance to hazardous liquid pipeline operators nationally, PHMSA has denied a Petition for Reconsideration of a matter involving an oil tank overflow incident at a Buckeye facility that occurred in 2005.  The oil was contained within a diked area, and promptly cleaned up.  The next day a state environmental official… Continue Reading

PHMSA Issues NPRM Regarding Enforcement Procedures

Posted in Administrative Rulemaking, Enforcement, PHMSA, Pipeline Safety Act
PHMSA has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) including numerous proposed amendments to 49 C.F.R. Part 190 with regard to PHMSA enforcement and administrative procedures in order to conform the Agency’s regulations with various requirements of the Pipeline Safety Act Reauthorization amendments that were signed into law on January 3, 2012, as well as… Continue Reading