[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 110 (Thursday, June 10, 2021)]
[Notices]
[Pages 31002-31003]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-12155]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

[Docket No. PHMSA-2021-0050]


Pipeline Safety: Statutory Mandate To Update Inspection and 
Maintenance Plans To Address Eliminating Hazardous Leaks and Minimizing 
Releases of Natural Gas From Pipeline Facilities

AGENCY: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA); 
DOT.

ACTION: Notice; issuance of advisory bulletin.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: PHMSA is issuing this advisory bulletin to remind each owner 
and operator of a pipeline facility that the ``Protecting our 
Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2020'' (PIPES 
Act of 2020) contains a self-executing mandate requiring operators to 
update their inspection and maintenance plans to address eliminating 
hazardous leaks and minimizing releases of natural gas (including 
intentional venting during normal operations) from their pipeline 
facilities. Operators must also revise their plans to address the 
replacement or remediation of pipeline facilities that are known to 
leak based on their material, design, or past operating and maintenance 
history. The statute requires pipeline operators to complete these 
updates by December 27, 2021.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sayler Palabrica, by phone at 202-366-
0559 or by email at [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Natural gas is composed primarily of 
methane, therefore leaks and other releases of natural gas emit methane 
gas into the atmosphere. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection 
Agency (EPA), methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming 
potential (GWP) of 28-36 over 100 years.\1\ Compared to carbon dioxide, 
methane gas has a stronger warming effect, but a shorter lifespan in 
the atmosphere. Due to the high GWP and short lifespan of methane gas 
in the atmosphere, minimizing releases of natural gas (both fugitive 
and vented emissions) has relatively near-term benefits to mitigating 
the consequences of climate change. Likewise, remediation or 
replacement of pipeline facilities that are known to leak based on 
material, design or past operating and maintenance history can result 
in enhanced public safety, environmental protection, and economic 
benefits.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ ``Understanding Global Warming Potentials,'' U.S. EPA, 
available at https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/understanding-global-warming-potentials.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The ``Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing 
Safety Act of 2020'' (Pub. L. 116-260, Division R; ``PIPES Act of 
2020'') was signed into law on December 27, 2020. This law contains 
several provisions that specifically address the elimination of 
hazardous leaks and minimization of releases of natural gas from 
pipeline facilities. Section 114(b) of the PIPES Act of 2020 contains 
self-executing provisions that apply directly to pipeline operators. 
This section requires each pipeline operator to update its inspection 
and maintenance plan required under 49 U.S.C. 60108(a) no later than 
one year after the date of enactment of the PIPES Act of 2020 (i.e., by 
December 27, 2021) to address the elimination of hazardous leaks and 
minimization of releases of natural gas (including, and not limited to, 
intentional venting during normal operations) from the operators' 
pipeline facilities (49 U.S.C. 60108(a)(2)(D)). The PIPES Act of 2020 
also requires those plans to address the replacement or remediation of 
pipelines that are known to leak due to their material (including cast 
iron, unprotected steel, wrought iron, and historic plastics with known 
issues), design, or past operating and maintenance history (49 U.S.C. 
60108(a)(2)(E)). In addition, 49 U.S.C. 60108(a)(2) requires that 
operators continue updating these plans to meet the requirements of any 
future regulations related to leak detection and repair that are 
promulgated under 49 U.S.C. 60102(q).

Advisory Bulletin (ADB-2021-01)

    To: Owners and Operators of Gas and Hazardous Liquid Pipeline 
Facilities.
    Subject: Statutory Mandate to Update Inspection and Maintenance 
Plans to Address Eliminating Hazardous Leaks and Minimizing Releases of 
Natural Gas from Pipeline Facilities.
    Advisory: The PIPES Act of 2020 contains self-executing provisions 
requiring pipeline facility operators to update their inspection and 
maintenance plans to address the elimination of hazardous leaks and 
minimization of releases of natural gas (including, and not limited to, 
intentional venting during normal operations) from their systems before 
December 27, 2021. PHMSA expects that operators will comply with the 
inspection and maintenance plan revisions required in the PIPES Act of 
2020 by revising their operations and

[[Page 31003]]

maintenance (O&M) plans required under 49 CFR 192.605, 193.2017, and 
195.402, to address the elimination of hazardous leaks and minimize 
releases of natural gas from pipeline facilities. The plans must also 
address the replacement or remediation of pipelines that are known to 
leak due to their material (including cast iron, unprotected steel, 
wrought iron, and historic plastics with known issues), design, or past 
O&M history. The plans must in be in writing, tailored to the 
operator's pipeline facilities, supported by technical analysis where 
necessary, and sufficiently detailed to clearly describe the manner in 
which each requirement is met. For additional guidance on O&M plans for 
hazardous liquid and natural gas pipeline facilities, see ``Operations 
& Maintenance Enforcement Guidance,'' part 192 subparts L and M, page 
17, available at https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/sites/phmsa.dot.gov/files/docs/regulatory-compliance/pipeline/enforcement/5776/o-m-enforcement-guidance-part-192-7-21-2017.pdf; and ``Operations & Maintenance 
Enforcement Guidance,'' part 195 subpart F, page 18, available at 
https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/sites/phmsa.dot.gov/files/docs/regulatory-compliance/pipeline/enforcement/5781/o-m-enforcement-guidance-part-195-7-21-2017.pdf.
    Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 60108(a)(3), as amended by section 114(a) of 
the PIPES Act of 2020, PHMSA and state authorities with a certification 
under 49 U.S.C. 60105 will inspect operators' revised O&M plans in 
calendar year 2022, and such inspections must be completed by December 
27, 2022. During these inspections, PHMSA, or the relevant state 
authority, is required to evaluate whether the plans adequately address 
items listed in section 114 of the PIPES Act of 2020.
    Operators need to consider the following items as they update their 
plans to comply with section 114 of the PIPES Act of 2020:
     O&M plans must be detailed to address the elimination of 
hazardous leaks and minimization of releases of natural gas from the 
operators' pipeline facilities; meaning pipeline operators must update 
their plans to minimize, among other things, fugitive emissions and 
vented emissions from pipeline facilities. PHMSA and state inspections, 
therefore, will evaluate the steps taken to prevent and mitigate both 
unintentional, fugitive emissions as well as intentional, vented 
emissions. Fugitive emissions include any unintentional leaks from 
equipment such as pipelines, flanges, valves, meter sets, or other 
equipment. Vented emissions include any release of natural gas to the 
atmosphere due to equipment design or operations and maintenance 
procedures. Common sources of vented emissions include pneumatic device 
bleeds, blowdowns, incomplete combustion, or overpressure protection 
venting (e.g., relief valves).
     O&M plans must address the replacement or remediation of 
pipelines that are known to leak based on the material (including cast 
iron, unprotected steel, wrought iron, and historic plastics with known 
issues), design, or past operating and maintenance history of the 
pipeline. PHMSA and state inspections will include an evaluation of how 
the material present in the pipeline system, design of the system, as 
well as the past O&M history of the system, contribute to the leaks 
that occur on the system. PHMSA and states will evaluate whether the 
plans adequately address reducing leaks on operators' pipeline systems 
due to the aforementioned factors.
     Operators must carry out a current, written O&M plan to 
address public safety and the protection of the environment. In 
addition to the new statutory requirement that PHMSA and state 
inspections consider the extent to which the plans will contribute to 
the elimination of hazardous leaks and minimizing releases of natural 
gas from pipeline facilities, PHMSA's inspections will continue to 
include an evaluation of the extent to which the plans contribute to 
both public safety and the protection of the environment.
    Developing and implementing comprehensive written O&M plans is an 
effective way to eliminate hazardous leaks and minimize the release of 
natural gas from pipeline systems. PHMSA anticipates these self-
executing statutory mandates will result in enhanced public safety and 
reductions in pipeline emissions thereby reducing impact on the 
environment.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on June 4, 2021, under authority 
delegated in 49 CFR 1.97.
Alan K. Mayberry,
Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety.
[FR Doc. 2021-12155 Filed 6-9-21; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-60-P