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

PHMSA has recently issued a Final Rule establishing review criteria for state excavation damage programs, as well as a process for enforcing Federal excavation damage requirements in states with inadequate excavation damage prevention enforcement.
Continue Reading PHMSA Issues Final Rule on Pipeline Damage Prevention Programs

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 New Pipeline Construction Issues: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Considers Allowing Incidental Takes Under the Migratory Bird Treaty 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 Pipeline Law 2015: The Year Of Living Uncertainly

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

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 over the past ten years have been successful in improving pipeline safety.

  • The number of releases from liquid pipelines decreased 62% over the last ten years (based on three year averages).
  • While the volume of barrels of crude or petroleum product transported has increased, the amount released over the last ten years decreased by 47% (based on three year averages).
  • Releases caused by corrosion decreased by 79%, third party damage by 78% and those caused by material defects, seam and weld failures decreased by 31% (based on three year averages).

Continue Reading Industry Performance Statistics Illustrate Improvements in Pipeline Safety

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 New Emergency Order and Safety Advisory Affecting Crude Shipments by Rail

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 in proposed penalties during the previous five-year period (2004-2008).  PHMSA also reported issuance of 544 enforcement orders over the past five years, with more than half of those – 266 – in 2013 alone.  In addition, for enforcement cases involving civil penalties or proposed compliance actions filed over the period of 2009-2013, PHMSA reportedly reduced its average time to initiate and fully close an enforcement case by 65 percent.  Since proposing its first penalty in excess of  $1 million in 2006, the Agency has proposed 7 additional penalties over $ 1 million, 2 of which were proposed in 2013.

Continue Reading PHMSA Publicizes Enforcement Record, Seeks to Cut Staff