Sunday, December 8, 2013

S 1767 Introduced – Pipeline Repair

As I mentioned earlier Sen. Markey (D,MA) introduced S 1767, the Pipeline Modernization and Consumer Protection Act. This bill would encourage gas pipeline companies to accelerate the replacement of aging or leaking gas pipelines.

Provisions of the Bill

Section 2(a) of the bill identifies a number of Congressional Findings about the current state of repair of gas pipelines in the United States. Among those findings is the observation that there is no federal regulation of minor gas leaks that might indicate the poor state of repair of an aging piping infrastructure and that ignoring these minor leaks is actually encouraged by the rate structure of the distributed gas.

Section 2(b) of the bill adds §60112A to 49 USC Chapter 601. Paragraph (a) of that new section defines ‘gas pipeline facility’ as either a distribution facility or a gas utility. Paragraph (b) provides that each such facility will ‘accelerate’ the repair or replacement of pipeline equipment that is leaking or presents a high-risk of leaking. Paragraph (c) describes potential policy options for State agencies or unregulated facilities to ‘consider’. Those options include:

• Developing timelines to repair/replace ‘all leaking equipment’ including non-hazardous leaks {§60112A(c)(1)(A)};
• Adopting a cost recovery plan for such repairs/replacements that takes into account economic, safety and environmental benefits of the resulting leak reduction{§60112A(c)(1)(B)};
• Adopting a standard definition and methodology for calculating and reporting unaccounted-for gas {§60112A(c)(1)(C)};
• Adopting limits on cost recovery for lost and unaccounted-for gas {§60112A(c)(1)(D)}; and
• Require the use of best available technology to detect gas leaks {§60112A(c)(1)(E)}.

Section 2(c) of the bill addresses the establishment of “non-binding guidelines identifying best practices under” the new §60112A established by this bill. The guidelines will be established by PHMSA in consultation with “State regulatory authorities, the Secretary of Energy, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and other appropriate Federal agencies”.

Section 3 of the bill requires PHMSA to “establish and publish forms that adopt a standard definition and methodology for calculating and reporting unaccounted-for gas, including, when possible, information on the causes of unaccounted-for gas and the quantities associated with each cause, for use by applicable Federal agencies to standardize the data collected on unaccounted-for gas”.


While this bill clearly identifies a possible reason for gas pipeline failures (minor leaks due to age or inadequate pipeline construction) it does not actually provide any authority for PHMSA to do something about the problem. The bill provides ideas for the 27 State agencies that regulate gas pipelines, but does not actually require them, or give them incentives, to take the suggested actions. And it does nothing to address the problem in the other 23 States that lack such regulatory agencies.

Since this bill does not actually require anyone to do anything, it is unlikely that there will be any significant opposition from the regulated community. As such this bill, if it makes it through the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, would probably be approved by the Senate in one of the end-of-day unanimous consent approvals. Similar approval in the House would probably take place in an under-suspension-of-the-rules vote.

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