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Highlights from the PIPES Act

These are the highlights from the PIPES Act that expires next year.

President Obama in June 2016 signed into law the “Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety” or “PIPES Act” of 2016 as Public Law 114-183. The law extends the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), makes changes to PHMSA safety policies and gives the Department of Transportation more power in the event of pipeline emergencies. The law also includes a provision ensuring coordination and collaboration on pipeline mapping, research, development, and technology between PHMSA, industry, and public stakeholders, including provisions strengthening geolocation data for pipelines and other underground utility infrastructure through enhanced underground utility location data requirements.

This bill reauthorizes the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), through FY2019.

  • Section 5 of the bill calls for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress about the hazardous liquid integrity management program to include an analysis of how surveying, assessment, mitigation, and monitoring activities, including real-time hazardous liquid pipeline monitoring during significant flood events and information sharing with other Federal agencies, are being used to discuss risks associated with the dynamic and unique nature of rivers, floodplains, and lakes.
  • Section 8, entitled “improving location mapping technology”, calls for USDOT in consultation with stakeholders to conduct a study on improving damage prevention through technological improvements in location and communications practices to prevent accidental excavation damage to a pipe or its coating, including considerations of technical, operational, and economic feasibility. The study will include the identification of any methods that could improve damage prevention through location and mapping data to cut unintended releases caused by excavation; an analysis of how increased use of GPS digital mapping technologies, predictive analytics tools, public awareness initiatives, including one-call initiatives, the use of mobile devices, and other advanced technologies could supplement existing one-call notification and damage prevention programs to cut the frequency and severity of incidents caused by excavation damage; and an analysis of the feasibility of a national data repository for pipeline excavation accident data that creates standardized data models for storing and sharing pipeline accident information.
  • Section 10 called for USDOT to convene a working group to consider the development of a voluntary no-fault information sharing system to encourage collaborative efforts to improve inspection information feedback and information sharing with the purpose of improving natural gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipeline integrity risk analysis, and be comprised of professional stakeholders, including operators of pipeline facilities, inspection technology vendors, and pipeline inspection organizations.
  • Section 11 calls for USDOT to submit a report to Congress on the feasibility of a nationally integrated pipeline safety regulatory inspection database to improve communication and collaboration between the PHMSA and State pipeline regulators. This database will include a description of any existing inadequacies or gaps in State and Federal inspection, enforcement, geospatial, or other pipeline safety regulatory inspection data.
  • Section 25 calls for USDOT, as connected to Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Facilities and Integrity Assessments, require for each operator of a pipeline facility to ensure that pipeline integrity assessments using pipeline route surveys, depth of cover surveys, pressure tests, external corrosion direct assessment, or other technology, that the operator demonstrates can further the understanding of the condition of the pipeline facility are completed on a schedule based on the risk that the pipeline facility poses to the high consequence area in which the pipeline facility is located.

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