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Eased federal pipeline regulations published in Federal Register

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The Federal Department of Transportation is set to ease regulatory burdens on the construction, maintenance and operation of pipeline systems, requiring fewer reports regarding leaks and incidents, according to the rule published in the Federal Register.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) is amending the Federal Pipeline Safety Regulations to minimize burdens without adversely affecting safety, according to the summary in the register. The rule will be effective March 12, 2021.

Revisions include clarifying that operators may remotely inspect rectifier stations for external corrosion, updating the monetary threshold for incident reporting to account for inflation and aligning standards regarding governing plastic pipe and welding process requirements, among others.

The amendments should reduce regulatory burdens, increase flexibility, improve efficiency and add clarity to existing rules, according to the cost and benefits section. The rules should save about $129.8 million to $132.5 million annually, the rule states.

The rule would eliminate a dedicated report form for mechanical fitting failures, removing a section of guidelines that “requires distribution pipeline operators to submit a MFF report to PHMSA almost every time there is a release from a mechanical joint, the majority of which are low-consequence or no-consequence events that do not meet the definition of an incident at § 191.3.”

PHMSA sought to collect data about the frequency and characteristics of mechanical joint failures when this rule was established in 2011 but determined further collection of MFF reports has limited value, the rule states.

As PHMSA is not aware of any pipeline incidents arising from atmospheric corrosion on a service line, the new rule would reduce onshore gas pipelines’ required inspections from every 3 years to every 5 years. If atmospheric corrosion were identified on the last section, the inspection would remain every 3 years.

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