Agency Considers Gas Pipeline Safety Changes

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Department of Transportation seeks public comments on managing gas pipeline safety standards in densely populated areas.
     The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a division of the Transportation Department, has requested comment on the requirements of its integrity management program (IMP) for gas pipelines.
     The 2011 Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act requires the department to evaluate whether IMP requirements need to be expanded beyond certain areas.
     Among other things, the department must report on whether applying the IMP requirements to other areas would ease the need to change safety standards based on location.
     The strength of gas pipes is based on population density near the pipelines, and areas are divided into classes from 1 (rural) to 4 (densely populated).
     When a population grows and more people live near a pipeline, a class location may change. Areas with larger populations near the pipelines have additional safety margins.
     The department received a number of comments critical of the pipeline regulations in response to a 2011 advance notice of proposed rulemaking on revisions to pipeline safety standards.
     Among others, the mayor of Jersey City proposed three new class locations because the current system “does not sufficiently reflect high density urban areas, as the regulations fail to contemplate either (1) the dramatic differences in population densities between highly congested areas and other less dense class 4 locations, or (2) the full continuum of population densities found in urban areas themselves.”
     In the latest action, the department seeks comments about possible changes to class locations for pipelines.
     Among other questions posed, the department asked: “Should there only be a single design factor for areas where there are large concentrations of populations, such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes, multiple-story buildings, stadiums, and shopping malls, as opposed to rural areas like deserts and farms where there are fewer people?”
     The department also requested comments about inspection issues regarding the strength and integrity of pipes.
     Comments are due by Sept. 30.

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