Pipeline Safety Group Promotes Info Sharing


A new pipeline safety advisory committee has been formed with the objective of encouraging collaboration among stakeholders in order to improve gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipeline facility integrity risk analysis.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced the appointments of the first 24 members to its new Voluntary Information-Sharing System (VIS) Working Group on Dec. 15.

The VIS Working Group is intended to provide the Secretary of Transportation with advice and recommendations related to pipeline safety, including:

  • Whether an information-sharing system for pipeline owners and operators is needed;
  • Ways to encourage the exchange of pipeline inspection information; and
  • Best practices for protecting proprietary and security-sensitive information.

“This is an important step to enhancing safety and making it easier to share best practices,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

“The new VIS Working Group will not only utilize the expertise of the pipeline industry, but it will encourage collaboration in the way information is used and exchanged regarding pipeline assets and activities to impact safety.”

Voluntary Information Sharing

The committee was formed as a requirement of the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016, which called for the group to be formed by Dec. 19.

Tasked with discussing collaborative efforts to improve pipeline inspection information sharing, the working group will share recommendations on how to best establish a voluntary information-sharing system to exchange and protect pipeline safety and inspection-related data, the agency said.

“Voluntary information sharing is a critical next step in achieving a greater safety threshold in the pipeline industry,” said PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez. 

lycoming pipeline rupture

Among the topics under discussion, the working group will reportedly encourage the sharing of pipeline inspection information, the development of advanced pipeline inspection technologies, and data-sharing to increase knowledge regarding the varying types of in-line inspection technologies.

“Today’s appointments by Secretary Foxx task a diverse and robust group of experts with providing critical recommendations in how we can use and share data to further improve pipeline safety,” Dominguez added.

Specifically, the VIS Working Group will offer recommendations on the best ways to:

  • Identify the need for a system to confidentially share pipeline dig verification data with in-line inspection operators;
  • Encourage the sharing of pipeline inspection information and the development of advanced pipeline inspection technologies;
  • Share data to increase knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of the varying types of in-line inspection technologies;
  • Create a secure system that protects proprietary information while also encouraging information sharing and the development of advanced pipeline inspection technologies;
  • Protect safety- and security-sensitive information, as well as proprietary information; and
  • Determine associated regulatory, funding and legal issues.

The VIS Working Group’s recommendations will be published on PHMSA’s website.

Committee Representatives

Foxx selected the first-term appointees based on the requirements in the Nov. 8 Federal Register notice requesting nominations.

The call for nominations specified that the VIS Working Group should consist of no more than 30 members appointed by the Secretary, including representatives from:

  • PHMSA;
  • Qualified industry stakeholders, including:
    • Operators of pipeline facilities;
    • Inspection technology, coating and cathodic protection vendors; and
    • Pipeline inspection organizations;
  • Safety advocacy groups;
  • Research institutions;
  • State public utility commissions or state officials responsible for pipeline safety oversight;
  • State pipeline safety inspectors;
  • Labor representatives; and
  • Other entities, as determined appropriate by the Secretary.

Members of the first VIS Working Group are as follows.

PHMSA Representative:

  • Alan Mayberry, Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

State Public Utility Commissioners/State Officials:

  • Diane Burman, Commissioner, New York State Public Service Commission
  • Sherina Edwards, Commissioner, Illinois Commerce Commission

State Pipeline Safety Inspectors:

  • Joe Subsits, Chief Pipeline Safety Engineer, Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission
  • Michelle Thebert, Director, Facilities Protection Unit, Georgia Public Service Commission

Safety Advocacy Groups:

  • Kate Blystone, Outreach Manager, Pipeline Safety Trust
  • Dr. Simona Perry, Research Director and Founder, Pipeline Safety Coalition

Labor Representatives:

  • John MacNeill, National Safety Director, Utility Workers Union of America
  • Eric Sherman, Legislative Assistant, Native American Contractors Association
  • Walter Jones, Associate Director of Occupational Safety & Health, Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America

Industry Stakeholders:

  • Leif Jensen, Senior Director of Asset Integrity, Sunoco Logistics
  • Dan Cote, Vice President of Pipeline Safety & Compliance, NiSource Gas
  • Eric Amundsen, Vice President, Panhandle Energy/Energy Transfer Partners
  • Bryce Brown, Vice President, Group Strategy Management, The ROSEN Group
  • Jason Cradit, Senior Director of Technology, TRC Oil and Gas
  • Alicia Farag, President & CEO, LocusView Solutions
  • Mark Zuniga, Vice President of Information Technology, UniversalPegasus International, Inc.
  • Robert Buchanan, General Manager, Seal for Life Industries
  • Christopher Warner, Senior Vice President, Mears Group, Inc.
  • Mike LaMont, Vice President, Integrity Plus
  • Mark Hereth, Principal, Process Performance Improvement Consultants

Research Institutions:

  • Dr. Yiming Deng, Associate Professor, Michigan State University
  • Michael Keller, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Tulsa

Other Entities:

  • Holly Pearen, Senior Attorney, Environmental Defense Fund

Each member is expected to serve a three-year term unless he or she becomes unable to serve, resigns, ceases to be qualified to serve, is removed by the secretary, or if the VIS Working Group fulfills its purpose before the term ends.

The secretary may reappoint a member to serve additional terms.


Tagged categories: Coating inspection; Department of Transportation (DOT); Government; Health & Safety; Health and safety; North America; PHMSA; Pipeline; Regulations; Safety

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