PHMSA proposes updates to gas distribution pipeline regulations

October 16, 2023 By    
Photo: JamesBrey/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images _ gas distribution pipeline regulations sought

Gas pipeline safety measures sought. (Photo: JamesBrey/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

(Editor’s note: This article was updated Oct. 19 to reference a proposed exemption for small LPG systems.)

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to strengthen safety requirements for millions of miles of gas distribution pipelines.

These proposed changes aim to improve safety and mitigate risk through the improvement of emergency response plans, integrity management plans, operation manuals and more, according to the agency. The proposal comes after a series of gas fires and explosions in Massachusetts’ Merrimack Valley in 2018 that injured dozens and resulted in one fatality.

The proposed rulemaking implements congressionally mandated revisions from the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act – enacted as part of the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2020 and to address National Transportation Safety Board recommendations.

Major pieces of the proposal include:

  • Improving construction procedures designed to minimize the risk of incidents caused by system over-pressurization.
  • Updating distribution integrity management programs to cover and prepare for over-pressurization incidents.
  • Requiring new regulator stations to be designed with secondary pressure relief valves and remote gas monitoring, as a way to better prepare gas distribution systems to avoid over pressurizations and limit damage during incidents.
  • Strengthening emergency response plans for gas pipeline emergencies, including requirements for operators to contact local emergency responders and keep customers and the affected public informed of what to do in the event of an emergency.

In response to a petition by the National Propane Gas Association, PHMSA proposed to exempt small LPG systems from the Distribution Integrity Management Program. A small LPG operator has an LPG distribution pipeline system serving fewer than 100 customers from a single source.

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