Thursday, February 22, 2024

PUC Adopts Final Regulations Strengthening Operation, Construction Requirements For Intrastate Hazardous Liquids Pipelines

On February 22, the
Public Utility Commission approved a Final Form Rulemaking Order strengthening state public utility safety standards related to the pipeline transport of hazardous liquids in intrastate commerce.

There are two PUC certificated hazardous liquid public utilities involved in intrastate service in Pennsylvania – Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. (including the Mariner East Pipelines)  and Laurel Pipe Line – and the new HVL regulations would apply to them, as well as any other future intrastate HVL public utilities.

[Note: The construction of the Mariner East Pipeline across Pennsylvania resulted in Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners being convicted of criminal charges for environmental violations and resulted in an additional $31 million in penalties.  Read more here.  

[On February 16, a citizen complaint lead DEP to a breakout of drilling mud used in the construction of the Mariner East Pipeline that contaminated the lake at Marsch Creek State Park in Chester County.  Read more here.

[The Department of Environmental Protection published notice in the February 24 PA Bulletin the final technical guidance on using trenchless technology to construct natural gas, other pipelines and underground utilities is now available and effective.   Read more here.]

The Commission voted 5-0 to adopt the final-form regulations, which provide hazardous liquid public utilities with Pennsylvania-specific safety standards designed to deter inadvertent returns, leaks, subsidence events, and water contamination events related to the construction, operation and maintenance of highly volatile liquid (HVL) pipelines and other public utility pipelines transporting hazardous liquids within Pennsylvania. 

“I recognize that pipelines are vital to our economy in supplying necessary fuel for daily activities and for job creation,” said PUC Chairman Stephen M. DeFrank in a statement at the PUC Public Meeting.  “Pipelines are the safest way to transport hazardous liquids. Pennsylvania’s experience, however, demonstrated that a more comprehensive and complete regulatory framework for HLPUs (Hazardous Liquid Public Utilities) was necessary to limit the occurrence of subsidence events, pipeline accidents, and complaints.”

Also in a statement of support, Commissioner Kathryn L. Zerfuss said, “This final-form rulemaking represents a long overdue step forward towards improving pipeline safety in this Commonwealth.  Pipelines are critical to Pennsylvania’s energy infrastructure and there is a shared goal among all vested partners to ensure that hazardous liquid public utilities construct, operate and maintain pipelines in a manner that ensures protection of public health, safety and the environment.  This final-form rulemaking is the direct result of concerns raised by the public and identified by the Commission based on its oversight of recent pipeline construction in Pennsylvania.”

With this final rule, hazardous liquid public utilities will have Pennsylvania-specific standards to comply with, in addition to federal regulations currently administered by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and enforced by the PUC.  

Summary Of Changes

Following its review and consideration of extensive public comment, the Commission seeks to augment existing regulations in several major areas, including:

-- Annual reporting of jurisdictional pipeline facilities;

-- Accident reporting;

-- Notification requirements prior to construction and conversion;

-- Pipeline spacing requirements;

-- Impact analysis requirements for horizontal directional drilling (HDD) and trenchless activities (TT);

-- Identification of water supplies near HDD and TT activities;

-- Notification requirements to water supply owners near HDD and TT activities;

-- Coordination with emergency responders and school administrators;

-- Public education and outreach;

-- Corrosion control; and

-- Land agent requirements.

The PUC’s amendments to Chapter 59 of Title 52 of Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Code do not apply to pipelines covered under Act 127 of 2011, the Gas and Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Act.

Additionally, there are no retroactive design or construction regulations for those pipeline facilities that exist when the rule is made effective by operation of law.  

However, the operations and maintenance, accident reporting, and public awareness regulations do apply to existing hazardous liquid pipeline facilities.

Upon the entry of a Final Rulemaking Order, the rulemaking will be reviewed by the legislative standing committees and Independent Regulatory Review Commission.  

The rulemaking will then be reviewed by the Office of Attorney General for form and legality, and by the Office of Budget for its fiscal impact.  

The Final Rulemaking Order will be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, after which the regulation will become effective. 

Click Here for the Final Form Rulemaking Order and rulemaking document..

Documents related to this rulemaking can be found at: Docket No.:  L-2019-3010267.

Related Articles - Pipelines:

-- Senate Budget Hearings: PA’s Experience With New Pipeline Construction Shows State Laws Not Strong Enough To Prevent Environmental Damage, Protect Public Safety [PaEN]

-- KDKA: Natural Gas Gathering Pipeline Crashes Into, Thru Westmoreland County Home And A Loophole In State Law That Doesn’t Regulate Gathering Pipelines For Safety [PaEN]

-- DEP Releases Final Guidance On Environmental Considerations In Using Trenchless Technology To Construct Natural Gas, Other Pipelines  [PaEN]

Related Articles This Week- PUC:

-- PUC Adopts Final Regulations Strengthening Operation, Construction Requirements For Intrastate Hazardous Liquids Pipelines  [PaEN]

-- PUC To Seek Comments On Proposed Regulation On Use Of Distributed Energy Resources And Virtual Power Plants  [PaEN] 

-- PUC Announces Appointment To PA One Call Underground Utility Damage Prevention Committee

Related Articles This Week- Gas:

-- Penn State Study: Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Fails To Meet Beneficial Reuse Recommendations For Use As A Dust Suppressant  [PaEN]

-- DEP: Shell Petrochemical Plant Pays Additional $2,671,044.75 In Civil Penalties For 12-Month Air Quality Violations After May 2023 Consent Order  [PaEN] 

-- Western PA Residents Comment After A Year Of Shell Petrochemical Plant Operations  [PaEN] 

-- Citizen Complaint Leads DEP To Breakout Of Mariner East Pipeline Drilling Mud That Contaminated The Lake At Marsh Creek State Park, Chester County; Sunoco Pipeline Starts Cleanup [PaEN] 

-- PUC Adopts Final Regulations Strengthening Operation, Construction Requirements For Intrastate Hazardous Liquids Pipelines  [PaEN]

-- DEP Publishes Final Guidance On Environmental Consideration In Using Trenchless Technology To Construct Natural Gas, Other Pipelines  [PaEN]

-- Protect PT Hosts Feb. 27 Online Lunch & Learn With Laurie Barr About Abandoned Oil & Gas Wells  [PaEN] 

-- PJM, Electric Grid Operators Recommend Additional Steps To Overcome Vulnerabilities In Natural Gas Infrastructure To Ensure More Reliable Grid Operation  [PaEN]

[Posted: February 22, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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