DOT Introduces Pipeline Leak Protection Proposal


Last week, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration proposed a new rule to improve the detection and repair of leaks from gas pipelines. According to the release, the proposed rule is directed by the bipartisan PIPES Act of 202 to create jobs, deploy pipeline workers nationwide and prevent dangerous actions.

“Quick detection of methane leaks is an important way to keep communities safe and help curb climate change,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “We are proposing a long-overdue modernization of the way we identify and fix methane leaks, thereby reducing emissions and strengthening protections for the American people.” 

The DOT reports that the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would enhance public safety and lower methane emissions and other air pollution from more than 2.7 million miles of gas transmission, distribution, and gathering pipelines; 400+ underground natural gas storage facilities; and 165 liquefied natural gas facilities. 

Additionally, it would update decades-old federal leak detection and repair standards in favor of new requirements that add an additional layer of safety by deploying commercially available, advanced technologies to find and fix leaks of methane and other flammable, toxic and corrosive gases.

Overall, the rule could reduce emissions from covered pipelines by up to 55%. The proposal also requires pipeline operators to establish advanced leak detection programs aimed at detecting and repairing all gas leaks by: 

  • Strengthening leakage survey and patrolling requirements by increasing the frequency of surveys and requiring the use of commercially available, advanced leak detection technology—such as aerial or vehicle surveys, handheld detection devices, and continuous monitoring systems—with flexibility for operators to use a range of approaches to meet a minimum performance standard;
  • Reducing the volume of gas released due to unintentional emissions like leaks and equipment failures and revising the reporting minimum threshold to detect smaller leaks sooner;
  • Minimizing intentional releases, such as those caused by equipment venting or blowdowns, associated with pipeline maintenance, repair, and construction and encouraging operators to consider cost-effective equipment that can capture the methane for later use; and
  • Establishing explicit criteria and timeframes for the timely repair of all leaks that pose a risk to public safety or the environment.

“When built by the men and women of the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA)—the best trained and most highly skilled craftspeople in the world—pipelines are the safest and least carbon intensive mode of transport for the energy that powers our nation. This proposed rule will ensure that our leak detection and mitigation efforts utilize cutting edge technology and leverage the skilled workforce required to modernize this infrastructure and keep communities safe,” said Mark McManus, General President of the United Association.

“This proposed rulemaking will not only continue to put our members to work, but it will help protect Americans and increase efficiency all while reducing harmful emissions. This commonsense solution is long overdue, and thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration, it will ensure the United States remains a world leader in the energy industry for generations to come.”

The proposed rule has reportedly been transmitted to the Federal Register. A publication date will be provided when it becomes available along with an opportunity to provide public comment.

Recent Pipeline Funding

Last month, Secretary Buttigieg and the PHMSA announced $196 million in funding from a new grant program to improve public safety, protect public health, and reduce methane emissions from natural gas distribution pipes.

The funding was awarded to 37 projects across 19 states through the Natural Gas Distribution Infrastructure Safety and Modernization program, which was established by the bipartisan infrastructure law.

The grant program will reportedly provide nearly $1 billion in funding over the course of five years to modernize municipally and community-owned natural gas distribution pipes, helping to keep communities across the country safe from pipeline leaks.

For the latest round of projects, the grants are anticipated to repair, replace, or rehabilitate nearly 270 miles of pipe, thereby reducing methane emissions by approximately 212 metric tons, annually.

Ultimately, these projects are expected to advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan. Additionally, they are projected to create hundreds of jobs in rural and urban communities.

The next funding opportunity of $392 million is expected to be released this month.

DOT Carbon Reduction Plan

In April last year, the Federal Highway Administration announced a $6.4 billion Carbon Reduction Program, created under the bipartisan infrastructure law. The formula funding will help states develop carbon reduction strategies and address the climate crisis, as well as expand transportation options to save money on gas.

The CRP will reportedly apply to a wide range of projects designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from on-road highway sources, including installing infrastructure to support the electrification of freight vehicles or personal cars, to construction bus corridors or facilitating micro-mobility and biking.

According to the FHWA’s press release, under the CRP, states must also develop carbon reduction strategies in consultation with Metropolitan Planning Organizations to identify projects and strategies tailored to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in their states. However, localities can begin using these funds even before plans are developed and reviewed.

Funding was announced by state in the Fiscal Year 2022 Federal-aid Highway Program apportionments, determined by a formula set by Congress. $52.5 billion will go to states for this fiscal year, with $6.4 billion in total being distributed over five years.


Tagged categories: Department of Transportation (DOT); Emissions; Environmental Controls; Environmental Controls; Gas detectors; Government; Health & Safety; Health and safety; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; PHMSA; Pipeline Coatings Systems LLC; Pipelines; Pipes; Program/Project Management; Regulations; Rehabilitation/Repair

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