Federal/ State Legislation

A bipartisan group of Senators who serve on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation introduced a Pipeline Safety Act reauthorization bill in November, the Securing America’s Future Energy: Protecting Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (SAFE PIPES) Act [link], Senate Bill 2276. That bill was approved by the Committee on December 9, 2015 with five amendments.
Continue Reading Senate Pipeline Safety Act Reauthorization Bill Advances

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

The Pipeline Safety Act (PSA) is up for reauthorization at the end of September of this year and, in the wake of recent high-profile incidents and increased scrutiny of the effectiveness of PHMSA pipeline safety oversight, it remains to be seen whether Congress will impose new substantive amendments to the statute or simply pass a

Amid considerable controversy, the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers (the agencies) issued a Final Rule on May 27, 2015, re-defining and expanding the definition of jurisdictional “waters of the U.S.” under the federal Clean Water Act.
Continue Reading How Will EPA’s New Definition of “Waters of the U.S.” Affect Oil & Gas Pipelines?

The North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) issued an order last month requiring Bakken producers to condition crude oil prior to transport in order to make it safer for shipment by rail.
Continue Reading North Dakota Crude “Oil Conditioning” Order: Vulnerable to Preemption Challenge?

The Senate Intelligence Committee recently approved the “Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act”, which would facilitate the sharing of information about cybersecurity threats or countermeasures by among private entities and with the federal government.  If information is shared in accordance with certain requirements (such as the use of technical controls to protect shared information), the bill provides broad protections for entities sharing information for cybersecurity purposes, including immunity against any legal action related to the monitoring, sharing, or receipt of information done in accordance with the Act.

Continue Reading Senate Committee Approves Cybersecurity Bill As Infrastructure Security Concerns Grow

Despite veto threats from the Obama Administration, H.R. 3301, the “North American Energy Infrastructure Act”, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 238 to 173 on June 24, 2014.  The purpose of the bill (subject of a prior post) is to eliminate the Presidential permitting process for cross-border pipelines and electric transmission facilities.  For oil pipelines and electric transmission lines, the bill would only require a “certificate of crossing” for the construction, connection, operation or maintenance of the cross-border segment of a proposed project.  The certificate would be issued by the State Department (for oil pipelines) or by the Department of Energy (for electric transmission lines).  These Departments would be required to issue certificates of crossing within 120 days of completion of review of the proposed “cross-border segment” under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), unless they find that the project is not in the national public interest.  For natural gas pipeline projects, a certificate of crossing would not be required, as the bill leaves in place the current authorization process of the Natural Gas Act, under which FERC approves siting, construction or operation of natural gas pipeline facilities, and the import or export of natural gas.  The bill would, however, eliminate the Presidential Permit requirement for natural gas pipeline projects.

Continue Reading House Approves Bill to Reform Permitting Process for Cross-Border Pipelines, Despite Presidential Opposition

In response to recent oil spills by rail and pipeline as well as a report by DOT’s Office of Inspector General criticizing PHMSA oversight of state pipeline safety programs, states are becoming increasingly active in oil spill response and oil transportation safety.  Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), state spill response regulations may exceed federal requirements.  33 U.S.C. 2718 (stating that OPA does not preempt a State’s imposition of additional liability or requirements regarding oil releases within the State or any removal activities associated with a release).  Some states, including California, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, already impose additional spill response requirements.

Continue Reading States Increasingly Active in Oil Spill Response and Pipeline Safety

The State Department recently released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Keystone XL Pipeline. As a final installment to the project’s review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the FEIS assesses the potential impacts associated with the proposed pipeline and its alternatives.
Continue Reading Government Inaction: Fate of Keystone XL Remains Political