The Department of Transportation (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Damage Prevention. The proposal would strengthen requirements to prevent excavators from striking pipelines when they are working near pipelines and causing damage to themselves, the public, and the environment. AOPL applauds DOT's issuance of the damage prevention proposed rule.
The largest cause of injury from a pipeline incident comes from the rare instances when someone is excavating near a pipeline and accidentally causes a rupture. These tragic mishaps can easily be avoided if crews learn about the pipelines in their area before they dig. Programs like the national 811 Call Before You Dig number exist to protect excavation crews and the surrounding public. However, some state regulations exempt certain parties from this critical requirement.
Monday's PHMSA proposed rulemaking would discourage states from granting unsafe exemptions. The PHMSA proposal requires States to submit a written justification of anyOne-Call exemptions, saying exemptions should be "limited and justified" and substantiated by data. AOPL is reviewing the proposal.
Pipeline operators have long supported strong pipeline public safety programs. Pipeline operators help finance public awareness campaigns about the pipelines in communities, plainly mark the path of pipelines, implement best practices for pipeline damage prevention, and support One-Call programs to provide a way for excavators to work safely.
During last year's debate of pipeline safety legislation in Congress, pipeline operators advocated for stronger damage prevention provisions, specifically the limiting of the ability of states to grant exemptions to excavators operating around pipelines. The Pipeline Security, Job Creation, and Regulatory Certainty Act of 2011, passed unanimously by Congress and signed into law by the President in January, said state damage prevention programs should not exempt state and local governments from calling damage prevention hotlines before excavating, and required a study of the threat to safety caused by other One-Call exemptions. Monday's PHMSA proposed rulemaking is another step in strengthening the damage prevention requirements necessary to keep communities safe.