On February 17, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) announced two new, significant policies that may have a profound impact on both natural gas pipeline projects before the Commission and the industry in general. Headlining these policies is FERC’s new interim greenhouse gas (GHG) policy statement (Interim GHG Policy Statement), pursuant to which FERC will presume any gas project with 100,000 metric tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) emissions to have a significant impact on climate change and will trigger the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Notwithstanding the interim nature of FERC’s new Interim GHG Policy Statement – where FERC is accepting comments by April 4, 2022 – FERC clarified that it will apply both policies to all pending and new project applications, effective immediately.
Reflections on Water, a website and accompanying podcast dedicated to tracking developments in water law and policy, was recently launched by Troutman Pepper’s highly regarded Water Quality and Water Resources practice. Recognized by Chambers USA, attorneys in this practice have advised clients on virtually every issue related to water quality, from strategic planning to permitting, compliance, enforcement defense, and litigation.
On January 27, 2022, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced a public informational meeting on February 17, 2022 regarding PHMSA’s plan for forthcoming audits of updated inspection and maintenance plans to eliminate and minimize leaks pursuant to Section 114 of the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2020. According to the notice, the purpose of the meeting is to review the requirements of Section 114, which required pipeline operators to update their inspection and maintenance plans by December 27, 2021, to (1) eliminate hazardous leaks, (2) minimize releases of natural gas, and (3) address the replacement or remediation of pipelines that are known to leak due to their material, design, or past operating and maintenance history.
In a final rule published in the Federal Register on November 24, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly finalized a hotly contested proposed rule, adding natural gas processing facilities to the list of industry sectors required to report their releases of certain chemicals under Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), also known as the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). Facilities must report releases and waste management of specifically listed chemicals to the TRI if they: (1) have 10 or more full-time employees, (2) have a primary Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) or North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code listed in the regulations, and (3) manufacture, process, or otherwise use certain listed chemicals in the course of a calendar year in quantities exceeding identified thresholds. Continue Reading Natural Gas Processors to Report to EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory Beginning 2023
Just as global leaders convened in Glasgow for COP26, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a prepublication copy of its new rule (Final Rule) on November 2, 2021 that significantly expands reporting and safety requirements for operators of gas gathering pipelines, including lines that were previously unregulated. This Final Rule, along with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Air Act rulemakings targeting the oil and gas sector issued the same day, serves to further demonstrate the Biden Administration’s overall commitment to action on climate change. The Final Rule requires operators to implement Part 192 requirements for certain newly regulated gas gathering lines located in Class 1 locations and requires Part 191 incident and annual reporting for all onshore gas gathering pipelines, regardless of location. These new requirements will significantly increase PHMSA’s oversight over more than 425,000 miles of previously unregulated onshore gas gathering lines.
* Meg Heyse is a 2021 summer associate at Troutman Pepper. She is not admitted to practice law.
In April 2021, the Department of Energy (DOE) launched a 100-day initiative to strengthen cybersecurity protections in the energy sector. Just one month later, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), issued Security Directive Pipeline 2021-1 (Security Directive or Directive) to implement — for the first time — mandatory requirements for certain pipeline operators with respect to cybersecurity. The Security Directive became effective the day it was issued on May 28, 2021. Although the Security Directive was issued in final, TSA is accepting public comments on the Directive and has indicated that it may amend the Directive based on those comments.
The Security Directive mandates that owners and operators of “critical” hazardous liquid and natural gas pipeline infrastructure comply with certain portions of the DOE’s April 2021 initiative. As defined by the Directive, “critical” pipeline facilities are those that have been previously identified by the TSA as critical pursuant to the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 and as outlined in TSA’s pipeline security guidelines. For these owners and operators, the Directive has three broad mandates. Continue Reading Mandatory Homeland Security Cybersecurity Directive
On January 11, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) finalized its June 2020 proposed rulemaking intended to reduce regulatory burdens and offer greater flexibility to gas pipeline operators, previously discussed in our post here. Pipeline operators may voluntarily comply with the rule starting on the effective date of March 12, 2021, but mandatory compliance is not required until October 1, 2021. Although the rule implements moderate changes to the pipeline safety regulations, given the timing of the final rule’s release, it is at least possible that the new administration could withdraw the rule.
PHMSA has finally published guidance to better delineate federal oversight of midstream processing facilities for public comment. The guidance, in the form of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), is intended to avoid gaps or overlaps in regulatory oversight of midstream facilities, particularly between PHMSA and OSHA. Comments are due by January 4, 2021. An example of the success of working groups where industry and agencies partner to provide additional regulatory clarity, the FAQs should — if finalized after notice and comment — provide more certainty to both regulated midstream processing operators and state and federal agencies.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA” or the “Agency”) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM” or the “Proposed Rule”) that provides increased flexibility to gas transmission pipelines that experience a certain change in population surrounding the pipeline (from a Class 1 to Class 3 location). These changes have been the subject of numerous Special Permit approvals for some time, and the industry has long requested that PHMSA codify this process to avoid unnecessary pipe replacements of short segments. If finalized, the Proposed Rule would provide operators an alternative option to implement integrity management (“IM”) requirements to ensure that a pipe segment is subject to appropriate class location safety factors and thereby avoid unnecessary and costly pipe replacements or pressure reductions. Comments are due by December 14, 2020.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued two Advisory Bulletins directed to natural gas distribution pipeline owners and operators. PHMSA released the advisories in response to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations arising out of two high-profile distribution pipeline incidents in Silver Spring, Maryland and Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts. The first advisory focuses on indoor meters and regulators to remind operators of the relevant regulatory requirements and risks. The second advisory covers low-pressure distribution systems, emphasizing the possibility of failures due to overpressurization.