New Century and Integrity Plus Blog

Getting to Know ... PHMSA!

Posted by Sarah on Oct 15, 2014 8:37:35 AM

Every pipeline operator knows it’s subject to Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) inspections to ensure that they meet the minimum federal standards for pipeline safety. But how much do you really know about the organization that develops and enforces these industry guidelines? In our first installment of “Getting to Know …” we’re focusing on PHMSA to give you insights into the organization that impacts so much of what we do in the Oil and Gas Industry.

PHMSA History & Organization

PHMSA was created under the Norman Y. Mineta Research and Special Programs Improvement Act (P.L. 108-426) of 2004. The organization’s purpose is to “develop and enforce regulations for the safe, reliable and environmentally sound operation of the nation’s 2.6 million mile pipeline transportation system and the nearly 1 million daily shipments of Hazardous materials by land, sea and air.”

Put a little more simply, its mission is to “protect people and the environment from the risks of hazardous materials transportation.”

PHMSA is comprised of two safety offices: the Office of Pipeline Safety and the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety. Today’s blog will only focus on the Office of Pipeline Safety as New Century Software and its clients interact with it exclusively. However, if you would like information on the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety, you can find it here.

PHSMA Size & Scope

PHMSA's 135 federal inspectors and 375 state partners are responsible for regulating nearly 3,000 companies that operate 2.6 million miles of pipelines, as well as various hazardous material transports. Through PHMSA oversight programs, serious pipeline incidents have decreased by 45.7% since 2009. That's impressive.

PHMSA Operations

PHMSA monitors compliance through field inspections of facilities and construction projects; programmatic inspections of operator management systems, procedures, and processes; incident investigations; and through direct dialogue with operator management.

The allocation of PHMSA staff time is:

  • 10% inspecting the construction of new pipeline facilities;
  • 6% investigating pipeline system failures;
  • 47% inspecting pipeline facilities for compliance with PHMSA operation, maintenance, and emergency response safety regulations
  • 17% communicating with stakeholders, especially on excavation damage prevention and land use planning;
  • 11% working on internal teams to continuously improve inspection methodologies and business processes;
  • 9% training

Title 49

The rules governing pipeline safety are included in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Parts 190-199. These rules are the minimum federal requirements.

Title 49 Infographic

State Regulations

Individual states may apply to have additional or more stringent pipeline safety regulations. According to the National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives (NAPSR), “to date, 45 states have implemented at least one initiative above and beyond the minimum requirements of the Code of Federal Regulations that apply to one or more pipeline operators within their states.” New Hampshire has, by far, the most additional initiatives with a whopping 117 in addition to the minimum federal regulations.

PHMSA is authorized to reimburse a state agency up to 80 percent of the agency's actual cost for carrying out its pipeline safety program, including the cost of personnel and equipment. The actual amount of federal reimbursement depends upon the availability of appropriated funds and the state's pipeline safety program's performance. A state agency's program performance is based on PHMSA's annual Program Evaluation and Progress Report scoring of each state agency.

We’re Here for You

New Century Software’s compliance experts have trained U.S. Federal and State inspectors, in addition to having a strong history of conducting mock audits and compliance status evaluations based on regulatory issues. Our team also provides audit strategies and processes focused on transparent compliance demonstrations, audit preparation and regulatory audit preparation.

For more information on how New Century can help you prepare for a visit from PHMSA, please click here.

Topics: Pipeline Operator, PHMSA, Federal Regulations, Compliance, Title 49

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