Thursday, September 1, 2011

PHMSA Publishes Post-Hurricane Pipeline Advisory

The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) published an Advisory Bulletin in today’s Federal Register (76 FR 54531-54532) regarding possible damage to pipeline facilities caused by the passage of a hurricane. Since this advisory is primarily targeted at off-shore pipelines it is particularly timely considering the developing tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

There is nothing really new in the recommendations other than two recommendations that deal with identifying and contacting marine vessel operators to remind them of the dangers of potentially exposed pipeline. The first deals with those that “engage in shallow-water commercial fishing, shrimping, and other marine vessel operations”. The second deals with those in deeper water that are “deploying fishing nets or anchors and conducting dredging operations”.

The last paragraph of the advisory is the most interesting. It states:

“PHMSA would appreciate receiving information [emphasis added] about any damage to pipeline facilities caused by hurricanes. The Federal pipeline safety regulations require that operators report certain incidents and accidents to PHMSA by specific methods. Damage not reported by these methods may be reported to John Hess, Director for Emergency Support and Security, 202-366-4595 or by e-mail at”

It’s nice to see a Federal agency politely asking for information that the public is not required to provide. It would, however, be nice to know what type of information that PHMSA is expecting to be covered by this statement and why it isn’t addressed in existing regulations. I would like to think that any ‘damage’ to an undersea pipeline would be required to be reported to PHMSA and/or the Coast Guard. Perhaps some Gulf Coast legislator might want to ask PHMSA about this?

I haven’t heard of any off-shore pipelines being affected by Hurricane Irene so maybe PHMSA is being proactive in publishing this Bulletin as opposed to the reactive Bulletin issued for under-river pipelines affected by flooding. If so, they are to be commended.

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