Saturday, December 11, 2021

OMB Approves PHMSA Coastal Sensitive Areas IFR

Yesterday, the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) announced that it had approved a pipeline safety interim final rule (IFR) submitted by DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) for “Coastal Ecological Unusually Sensitive Areas”. This rulemaking was sent to OIRA for review back in October.

This is a directed rulemaking, mandated by Congress in §120 of the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2020 (PL 116-260) and §19 of the PIPES Act of 2016 (PL 114-183). Those pieces of legislation required PHMSA to “amend the definition of unusually sensitive area (USA) to explicitly include the Great Lakes, coastal beaches, and certain coastal waters as USA ecological resources for the purposes of determining whether a pipeline is in a high consequence area (HCA), as defined by 49 CFR 195.450.”

As a directed rulemaking, PHMSA was not required to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking. An IFR allows for a public comment period after the regulation is published. Those comments would be considered at an indeterminate future date when PHMSA gets around to publishing a final rule, but the regulations would remain in effect in the interim.

This regulation should appear in the Federal Register before Christmas.

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