Saturday, August 13, 2011

PHMSA Pipeline Public Awareness Program ICR – 30-day Notice

On Monday the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) (will) published in the Federal Register (76 FR 50539) [sorry about the tense confusion, it was published today on-line but it will appear Monday in the print edition and that is the official date of publication] a 30-day Information Collection Request (ICR) renewal notice for their Public Awareness Program for operators of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines.

According to the notice abstract:

“The Federal Pipeline Safety Regulations require each operator to develop and implement a written continuing public education program that follows the guidance provided in the American Petroleum Institute's Recommended Practice RP 1162. Upon request, operators must submit their completed programs to PHMSA or, in the case of an intrastate pipeline facility operator, the appropriate state agency. The operator's program documentation and evaluation results must also be available for periodic review by appropriate regulatory agencies (49 CFR 192.616 and 195.440).”

Cut and Paste Problems

It’s interesting that this is the second renewal of the ICR and the response and burden information is the same as was published in the original ICR. This would typically mean one of three things:

• This is an annual requirement with a fixed respondent community;

• Every year there is a near-constant number of new entrants into the community; or

• The regulators have no idea what the actual burden is and are just cutting and pasting the information from the original submission.

I can find nothing in §192.616 or §194.440 that describes this as other than a one-time requirement to establish the program and ‘implement’ it. That implementation may require periodic educational and communications actions to be taken by the operator, but that has no practical effect on the ‘information collection’ described in this ICR. That information collection is the submission of the program for PHMSA and/or State and local review upon request.

I doubt that there are 22,500 new pipeline operators entering the business each year. That leaves just the last possibility and I really suspect that that is just what is happening in this request. I’m not trying to blame PHMSA for being lazy, it is just that the way OMB has structured their approval process it appears that cut and paste ICR’s have an easier time making it through the approval process in a timely manner.

The regulated community has not complained (And why should they?  The ICR is a meaningless process for the most part for the private sector.). Without their objection there is no incentive for PHMSA to make a real effort to complete this request in a detailed and factual manner if that will lead to delays in the OMB approval process.

Public Comments

PHMSA is soliciting public comments (as required by 5 USC §1320.8(d)) on this ICR submission. Public comments should be sent to:

Office of Management and Budget
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Attn: Desk Officer for the U.S. Department of Transportation
725 17th Street, NW.
Washington, DC 20503

Public comments should be submitted by September 14, 2011.

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