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.
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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.
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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).


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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.
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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.

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