Wednesday, July 27, 2011

PHMSA Pipeline Safety Advisory – Flooding

Today the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) published an advisory bulletin in the Federal Register (76 FR 44985-44986) for pipeline operators describing the “actions that operators should consider taking to ensure the integrity of pipelines in case of flooding”. A copy of this bulletin (ADB-11-04) is supposed to be available on the PHMSA Pipeline Safety web page (, but as of 7:00 am EDT it was not listed on that site.

The preamble to this advisory makes it clear that PHMSA is publishing this because of the Laurel, Montana release earlier this month. The cause of that release are still not known, but the timing of the release and the flooding of the Yellowstone River ensure that most people believe that the flooding caused the release. The wording of the preamble does not explicitly adopt this assumption, but the implication is clear.

While I am certainly not a pipeline safety expert, the measures outlined in this advisory seem to be common sense measures that a reasonable person would assume that a pipeline operator would be taking in the event of flooding near their pipeline. With the extent of flooding seen across the Midwest this year I suppose that it is prudent to publish an advisory of this sort, but this really should be part of a comprehensive pipeline safety program since flooding is not that unusual an event.

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