On March 20, 2020, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Office of Pipeline Safety issued a Notice to gas and hazardous liquid pipeline, underground natural gas storage and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility operators, as well as PHMSA state partners, explaining that it will stay enforcement of certain PHMSA pipeline safety requirements in light of the President’s March 13, 2020, Declaration of National Emergency relating to COVID-19. The Notice acknowledges that operators may have limited personnel resources in light of the COVID-19 National Emergency and may need to take actions to meet ongoing operational and maintenance needs in a manner that “may not fully meet federal operator qualification (OQ), control room management (CRM), and employment drug testing requirements.”

In light of these circumstances, the Notice explains that PHMSA “does not intend to take any enforcement action with regard to OQ and CRM requirements, and will consider exercising its enforcement discretion with regard to Part 199 drug testing requirements.”


Continue Reading

The Trump Administration’s recent executive order signals potentially significant changes to the regulatory landscape for domestic energy infrastructure generally and LNG in particular. Among the notable features of the order are the provisions directing US DOT to (1) update its 49 C.F.R. Part 193 regulations for LNG facility safety; and (2) issue regulations allowing LNG to be transported in approved rail tank cars.
Continue Reading

At an emergency press conference held today by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced that DOT has issued a one-time approval for special operating authority to engage in air transportation to specified markets.  The approval will be limited in duration, valid only from the evening of December 24

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

In light of recent high profile pipeline incidents, PHMSA, among other federal agencies, is experiencing an unprecedented number of requests for disclosure of information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) at 5 U.S.C. 552, et seq.  These requests often come from Congress, citizen groups, or other administrative agencies such as the NTSB.  FOIA, referred to as the public “right to know” statute, provides that any person has the right to obtain access to federal agency records, except to the extent that portions of those records are protected from public disclosure by one of 9 exemptions.  Most federal agencies have their own FOIA regulations.  For example, the Department of Transportation includes the FOIA statutory exemptions at 49 C.F.R. Part 7.13 and provides that the Agency’s policy is to make records available to the public to the greatest extent possible, including “providing reasonably segregable information from documents that contain information that may be withheld.”

Continue Reading