PHMSA Announces Proposed Rulemaking Affecting Natural Gas Distribution Systems – Oil, Gas & Electricity

15 September 2023

McGuireWoods LLP

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On Aug. 24, 2023, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
announced the forthcoming publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking intended to
improve safety on gas distribution pipelines nationwide by
improving emergency response plans, integrity management plans and
operation manuals, a، other things. Comments will be due 60 days
from the date the notice is published in the Federal Register.

This notice of 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, commonly known as the 2020 PIPES
Act. It also addresses recommendations from the National
Transportation Safety Board.

The proposed rule would require pipeline operators to improve
construction procedures designed to minimize the risk of incidents
caused by system over-pressurization and update distribution
integrity management programs to cover and prepare for
over-pressurization incidents. Additionally, any new regulator
stations would have to be designed with secondary pressure relief
valves and remote gas monitoring.

The proposed rule emphasizes the importance of emergency
response plans, and requires operators to contact local emergency
responders and keep customers and the public informed of what to do
in case of an emergency. Additionally, PHMSA’s proposed
effective dates for some of these proposed requirements would begin
one year after the final rule’s publication.

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