Yesterday the Office of Management and Budget announced that it had approved the PHMSA NPRM that implements the PIPES Act provided authority to enforce excavation damage laws in those states that have inadequate enforcement. According to the RegInfo.gov web page:
“This rulemaking would consider standards for excavators and operators to follow when conducting excavation in a vicinity of a pipeline and the administrative procedures to be used for enforcement proceedings.”
This bill has been languishing in PHMSA for a while; the NPRM was published in October of 2009 (74 FR 55797). Part of the problem is that PHMSA will not have any additional resources available to undertake any of the enforcement actions contemplated in the proposed regulations. There certainly won’t be any pipeline safety inspectors driving around the countryside looking at construction sites to see if they are complying with the standards. This will be another rule that will only be enforced after the fact with sanctions that will only be effective against small construction firms that won’t be fully aware of the rules in any case.
Since this approval came ‘consistent with change’ we can probably expect to see PHMSA publish this proposed rule within the next couple of weeks.