Rule Issued to Implement Expanded Authority for Issuing Emergency Orders, Improve Pipeline Safety

The rule allows the PHMSA to impose emergency restrictions, prohibitions, and safety measures

Rule Issued to Implement Expanded Authority for Issuing Emergency Orders, Improve Pipeline Safety
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October 6, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued an Interim Final Rule that implements its widened authority to address pipeline conditions or practices that are unsafe and pose an immediate hazard to either life, property, or the environment.

The regulations use one of the provisions of the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines Enhancing Safety Act of 2016. This law allows the agency to impose emergency restrictions, prohibitions, and safety measures on the owners and/or operators of gas or hazardous liquid pipeline facilities for the purpose of addressing safety issues that impact more than one owner or operator.

"Pipeline incidents can have devastating impacts on local communities and the environment," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "The new regulations carry out DOT's enhanced authority to compel industry to take immediate action to address problems that put people, property, or the environment at risk. We hope we never have to use it, but it is an important safety tool that will result in greater protection for the American public."

PHMSA may have to use this authority in such instances as when a serious manufacturing flaw has been found in pipe, equipment, or other materials or when an accident uncovers a particular industry practice that is not safe and needs to be corrected immediately.

"We fully recognize the critical role that pipelines play in our everyday lives – they deliver important resources, and support our economy and way of life," said PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez. "Pipelines also operate in close proximity to people, homes, businesses, and sensitive environmental areas. This new authority gives PHMSA the ability to act quickly to address urgent safety concerns, and to protect people and the environment."

The new regulations become effective when they are posted to the Federal Register. The agency must receive any comments within 60 days of publication.