Sunday, July 10, 2011

S 275 – Pipeline Safety Bill – Reported in Senate

Last week the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation published their report on S 275, the Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011. Additionally, the revised version of the bill that was approved by that Committee was placed on the GPO web site. This is the first time that we have been able to see the ‘amendment in the form of a substitute’ that was adopted in the Committee mark-up of this bill that was held on May 5th, 2011.

The provisions of the bill that I wrote about in my post on the introduction of the bill remain essentially unchanged. The only change I’ve noted in the revised bill is that the emergency response plan reporting requirements are spelled out in more detail in {§8(a)(2)}.

New Sections Added to the Bill

The revised bill includes two completely new sections and replaces a section in the original version with a section covering a new topic.

The revised section is §9; it has a new title; “Cast Iron Pipelines.” It replaces the section requiring a GAO report. The Committee report summarizes the new section:

“This section would require the Secretary to conduct a follow-on survey of that required in 49 U.S.C. 60108(d) to determine progress that has been made on the extent to which each operator has adopted a plan to safely manage and replace cast iron pipelines in its system. This section would require that the Secretary perform this survey biannually.”
The two new sections are inserted before the last section in the bill; the old §27 now becomes § 29. The new §27 is titled: “Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure”. The new §28 is titled: “Administrative enforcement process”. The §28 provisions are legally significant, but are not important in a safety context.

The first requirement of §27 would be for the Secretary to “require pipeline operators to conduct a verification of records for all interstate and intrastate gas transmission lines in class 3 and class 4 locations and class 1 and class 2 high consequence areas that accurately reflect the pipeline’s physical and operational characteristics and confirm the established maximum allowable operating pressure of those pipelines.” {§27(a)(1)}

This first requirement is important and is fully outlined in the Committee ‘Section-by-Section’ summary of the bill. From an emergency response perspective the more important requirement is spelled out in §27(b)(2). That section requires pipeline operators to “report any exceedance of the maximum allowable operating pressure for gas transmission pipelines that exceed the build-up allowed for operation of pressure limiting or control devices to the Secretary not later than 5 working days after the exceedance occurs.”

The five day requirement is kind of bizarre; this type of ‘exceedance’ was an immediate precursor to the San Bruno catastrophe. Not all such ‘exceedances’ would presage a catastrophic release or explosion, but some would. Since minutes count in the response to these type incidents, immediate notification of State and local responders should be the standard with a follow-up report to PHMSA within 5 days that would include a root-cause analysis and corrective action plan.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */