Monday, October 18, 2010

PHMSA ANPRM – My Comment Submission

As I noted in Saturday’s blog, PHMSA has published in today’s Federal Register an advance notice of proposed rule making (ANPRM) in support of their attempt to revise the regulations dealing with liquid hazardous materials being transported in on-shore pipelines. I am submitting the following comments on that ANPRM today.

PIH Chemicals

On October 18, 2010 PHMSA published an ANPRM in the Federal Register (75 FR 63774-63780) requesting public comments on potential modifications to the regulations concerning the safety of on-shore hazardous liquid pipelines. I would respectfully submit that the PHMSA regulations should take cognizance of the special hazards associated with poison inhalation hazard (PIH) chemicals as PHMSA considers their revision of these rules.

While, by definition, the leak of any regulated hazardous material potentially puts unprotected population at risk, the specific hazards associated with PIH chemicals may result from much smaller quantities of these chemicals being released into the environment. Relatively small amounts of these chemicals require significant emergency warning and response activities that are not adequately reflected in the current regulations.

Above Ground Facilities

In the ANPRM PHMSA asks (75 FR 63775) “Should PHMSA promulgate new or additional safety standards for… [a]ny other pipeline facility used in the transportation of hazardous liquid by pipeline?” Because of the reactive nature of PIH chemicals, small leaks in underground portions of the pipeline are not as potentially dangerous to the population as the same sized leaks in above ground sections of the pipeline. The reaction of the PIH chemical with soil elements, including ground water, will reduce the potential inhalation hazards to unprotected civilians.

Anytime a portion of the PIH pipeline is above ground this protective action is absent. Thus any portion of a PIH pipeline above ground should receive special attention in the PHMSA regulations.

HCA and Transportation

For example, later on the same page in the ANPRM PHMSA asks: “Should PHMSA amend the existing criteria for identifying high consequence areas[HCA], to expand the miles of pipeline included in an HCA?” The recent (July 2009) Tanner Industries leak near Swansea, SC demonstrates that releases of PIH chemicals near transportation routes pose a special hazard. If there had been a higher volume of traffic on US 321 that day there would have been a much higher number of fatalities.

Any time that a PIH pipeline traverses an area near major thorough fare the PHMSA regulations should provide treatment similar to the HCA provisions even if the roadway is in an otherwise rural area. Once again, any above ground portions of the PIH pipeline in these areas will have an even larger potential affect.

Leak Detection

Most pipeline leak detection methodologies rely on measured changes in flow rates, pipeline pressures or other measurements internal to the pipeline. For the hazards posed by many hazardous materials this is probably adequate. Once again, the special nature of PIH chemicals does not appear to be adequately addressed using these techniques. PHMSA asks in the ANPRM (75 FR 63777):

“If PHMSA adopts new leak detection requirements, should there be different performance standards for sensitive areas? For example, should PHMSA require operators to install more sensitive leak detection equipment, such as externally-based systems, in those areas?”
Once again, I would like to suggest that any place where a PIH pipeline is above ground externally based leak detection sensors are the only technology that would provide adequate warnings of the relatively small leaks of PIH materials that could affect unprotected civilians.


PHMSA does not address issues related to hazard communication or emergency response planning in this ANPRM. I would like to suggest that PIH pipelines present such a serious potential hazard that the PHMSA regulations should specifically address both of these areas. While security professionals are concerned about publishing locations of these pipelines, anyone living within the zone of a potentially toxic leak from one of the many PIH pipelines needs to know:

● What pipelines are in the area,
● What actions to take in the event of a leak, and
● How they will be warned of a significant leak.
PHMSA should consider adding a hazard communication requirement to these regulations for PIH pipelines. Operators should be required to notify residents of the existence of an above ground PIH pipeline in the area potentially affected by a leak resulting in concentrations higher than the established short term exposure limit for the specific PIH chemical contained in the pipeline. The exposure area would be determined using accepted dispersion modeling procedures using the maximum amount of the PIH material that could be released before automated shut off valves could effectively isolate the release and stop the flow of additional PIH material into the environment.

To avoid the potential security problems of posting pipeline locations on the internet, older technology, direct mail notification, could be used. This would give people with a very real need-to-know the information they needed to protect themselves. Pamphlets used in the notification process should include information on what actions to take in the event of a leak, a detailed description of procedures for “shelter in place”, and evacuation procedures (including the location of shelters).

The regulations should also include a specific emergency planning requirement for each above ground section of PIH pipeline. The plan would include the hazcom notification requirements discussed above, the leak identification and notification procedures, and a requirement to provide designated medical providers serving the potential above ground leak zone with medical treatment information for the PIH. Copies of the plans should be submitted to the PHMSA Administrator for approval and copies provided to the local FEMA office for coordination with local emergency response agencies.

PHMSA is to be commended for its willingness to address the issues associated with on-shore hazardous liquid pipelines. Thank you in advance for your consideration of my comments.

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