PHMSA Issues Proposed Safety Rulemakings


At the beginning of the month, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to adopt miscellaneous petitions and update certain regulatory requirements.

The provisions reportedly include but are not limited to those addressing packaging, hazard communication, and the incorporation by reference of certain documents, with an aim to improve safety standards.

Proposed Rulemaking

According to the NPRM, the amendments are for the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) to update, clarify, improve the safety of, or streamline various regulatory requirements. Specifically, this rulemaking responds to 18 petitions for rulemaking submitted by the regulated community between May 2018 and October 2020.

These proposed revisions maintain or enhance the existing high level of safety under the HMR while providing clarity and appropriate regulatory flexibility in the transport of hazardous materials.

According to reports, the proposed rulemaking aims to accomplish the following:

  • Allow for appropriate flexibility of packaging options in the transportation of compressed natural gas in cylinders;
  • Streamline the approval application process for the repair of specific DOT specification cylinders;
  • Provide greater clarity on the filling requirements for certain cylinders used to transport hydrogen and hydrogen mixtures;
  • Require a specific marking on cylinders to indicate compliance with certain HMR provisions;
  • Modify the definition of “liquid” to include the test for determining fluidity (penetrometer test) prescribed in the agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR); and
  • Incorporate by reference various Compressed Gas Association (CGA) publications concerning gas cylinders.

Looking at coatings specifically, for cylinder visual inspection, the NPRM requests that for each cylinder with a coating or attachments that would inhibit inspection of the cylinder, the coating or attachments must be removed before performing the visual inspection.

Additionally, removal of paint or loose material to prepare the cylinder for inspection is permitted. However, except in association with an authorized repair, removal of wall thickness via grinding, sanding or other means is not permitted.

“PHMSA expects that the proposed revisions would maintain the high safety standard currently achieved under the HMR while providing clarity and appropriate regulatory flexibility in the transport of hazardous materials,” wrote the administration.

“PHMSA also notes that—insofar as adoption of the petitions as proposed could reduce delays and interruptions of hazardous materials shipments during transportation—the proposed amendments may also lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and safety risks to minority, low-income, underserved, and other disadvantaged populations and communities in the vicinity of interim storage sites and transportation arteries and hubs.”

The American Coatings Association noted that it is guided by its Transport Committee in the monitoring and direction of matters germane to the safe, secure and economic movement of industry members’ products and the raw materials used in them.

Comments must be submitted to the PHMSA by May 2.

Recent PHMSA Rulemakings

In August last year, the PHMSA announced a final rule to strengthen the safety and environmental protection of more than 300,000 miles of onshore gas transmission pipelines. The rule was transmitted to the Federal Register on Aug. 4.

According to the PHMSA’s release, the rule was first initiated 11 years ago and incorporates lessons learned through the investigation of the San Bruno gas transmission pipeline explosion in 2010, which resulted in the death of eight people and injuries to more than 60 others. The final rule establishes standards for identifying threats, potential failures and worst-case scenarios from an initial failure through conclusion of an incident.

Based on recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board, the rule establishes the following:

  • Imposes new Management of Change process requirements to, for example, avoid a situation like the San Bruno incident, where a substandard segment of pipe was substituted without proper authorization;
  • Strengthens Integrity Management requirements, including identifying and evaluating all potential threats to pipelines;
  • Bolsters corrosion control standards to include surveys for interference of corrosion protection, internal and external corrosion monitoring, and corrosion protection testing; and
  • Institutes new requirements for inspections after extreme weather events; and expands criteria and expedites timelines for pipeline repairs.

Originally published in a 2011 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the final rule reportedly concludes a trio of pipeline safety rules following PHMSA’s 2016 proposed rulemaking for gas transmission and gathering pipelines.

Additionally, the administration issued a 2019 gas transmission final rule to address a number of congressional mandates and safety recommendations, as well as a 2021 final rule that significantly expanded the scope of safety and reporting requirements for more than 400,000 miles of previously unregulated gas gathering lines. 

PHMSA reports that the latest final rule also marks a milestone of the completion of three of the six measures in the U.S. Methane Reduction Action Plan. The final rule document can be read here.

In October 2019, then-Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao announced three new pipeline safety rules intended to bolster the safety of more than 500,000 miles of both onshore gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipelines.

According to PHMSA, the pipeline safety rules “modernize federal pipeline safety standards by expanding risk-based integrity management requirements, enhancing procedures to protect infrastructure from extreme weather events and requiring greater oversight of pipelines beyond current safety requirements.”

These rules are an expansion on Congressional mandates that date back to the Pipeline Safety Act in 2011, along with recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board. The rules include:

  • The gas transmission rule, which requires that operators of gas transmission pipelines that date prior to 1970 get a reading on the material strength of the infrastructure by reconfirming the Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure, along with the rule also updating record retention standards for the gas pipelines;
  • The hazardous liquid rule, which encourages operators to use data to better assess pipeline safety threats and has operators inspect the relevant energy infrastructure after a significant weather event for damage; and
  • The “Enhanced Emergency Order Procedures” final rule, which has adopted the provisions of a 2016 interim final rule that “established temporary emergency order procedures in accordance with a provision of the ‘Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016,’ according to PHMSA.

Tagged categories: Department of Transportation (DOT); Government; hazardous materials; Health & Safety; Health and safety; NA; North America; Pipeline; Pipelines; Pipes; Program/Project Management; Regulations

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