Under pressure from Congress, NTSB, and the public to take regulatory action in light of recent accidents involving oil trains, PHMSA finalized its regulations applicable to “High-Hazard Flammable Trains” in a Final Rule issued a mere nine months after it was proposed in an August 1, 2014 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
Continue Reading PHMSA Rail Transportation Rules Reflect Pressure to Act in the Face of Recent Oil Train Derailments

PHMSA issued an updated advisory regarding the potential for damage to pipeline facilities caused by severe flooding. Presumably prompted by the January 2015 release to the Yellowstone river in Glendive, Montana, associated with an area of exposed pipeline on the river bottom, the Agency reiterated the nine (9) actions it has set forth in prior advisories to prevent and mitigate damage to pipelines impacted by flooding.
Continue Reading Advisory Regarding Damage to Pipelines from Flooding

Two recent PHMSA-sponsored publications emphasize stakeholder advance planning as key to reducing the likelihood and consequences of pipeline incidents.
Continue Reading PHMSA-Sponsored Publications Provide Planning Tools for Hazard Mitigation and Emergency Response

EPA has proposed to revise requirements under the National Oil and Hazardous Substance Contingency Plan (NCP) to address concerns raised during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill pertaining to the use of dispersants and other spill mitigating products.
Continue Reading EPA Proposes New Standards for Use of Dispersants Under the National Contingency Plan

In response to a request from Congress to study the impact of shale oil and gas development on transportation infrastructure and safety, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) recently published a report commenting on these developments and focusing on DOT’s response to address safety risks posed by rail and pipeline transportation.
Continue Reading GAO Recommends that DOT Address Risks from Unregulated Gathering Pipelines

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

Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources recently announced measures to enhance the liability and accountability of pipeline companies for oil spills. The proposed measures, which have not yet been presented to the Canadian Parliament but are intended to become effective by 2017, introduce absolute liability for owners and operators of federally regulated pipelines.
Continue Reading Canada Proposes Strict Liability Rules for Oil Pipeline Releases