* 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.

Continue Reading Gas Pipeline Regulatory Reform Rule Finalized

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on May 28, 2020, issued a pre-publication Notice of Proposed Rulemaking titled Gas Pipeline Regulatory Reform.  The proposal is issued pursuant to the Administration’s executive orders directing federal agencies to reduce burdens and in response to comments from the industry.  In keeping with that intent, the proposed changes appear generally favorable to the gas pipeline industry and should ease certain regulatory burdens related to discrete areas of gas pipeline incident reporting, construction (welding requalification), operation (primarily distribution and plastic pipelines), and maintenance (rectifier inspections and low-pressure pipelines).

Continue Reading PHMSA Issues Gas Pipeline Regulatory Reform Proposal

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic understandably has strained available personnel and other resources as oil and gas pipeline operators focus on maintaining their essential operations. For the gas industry, the pandemic comes at a time that coincides with the initial deadlines associated with the first installment of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s gas “mega” rule, July 1, 2020. In order to provide gas operators with further flexibility due to constrained resources, PHMSA announced a 6-month stay of enforcement of initial Part 192 compliance deadlines in the rule, “if a regulated entity fails to meet such requirement by Dec. 31, 2020, for reasons attributable to the [COVID-19] National Emergency.”

Continue Reading Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic Prompts Gas Pipeline Enforcement Stay

Over the past week and in just the last 24 hours, several federal and state agencies have issued guidance documents and orders impacting the oil and gas pipeline industry. Through this guidance and other orders, federal and state governments are recognizing the oil and gas industry as critical to responding to COVID-19, while at the same time providing for some flexibility in the likelihood that operators will face resource and staffing constraints in executing their pipeline safety compliance obligations.

Continue Reading COVID-19 Oil and Gas Update – Agencies Provide Limited Enforcement Discretion and Confirm Infrastructure as Essential

On October 19, 2017, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced an additional comment period on its December 19, 2016 interim final rule (IFR) which established minimum federal safety standards for underground natural gas storage facilities.  PHMSA will accept comments until November 20, 2017.  This notice comes amidst the current administration’s executive orders on deregulation and a recent DOT request for comment on regulatory reform.

Continue Reading Underground Natural Gas Storage IFR Comment Period Reopened

Last December, PHMSA issued an interim final rule (IFR) to establish—for the first time ever—minimum federal standards for underground natural gas storage facilities.  The IFR imposes significant new requirements in a short timeframe for “downhole facilities,” including wells, wellbore tubing and casings at underground natural gas storage facilities.  Those rules became effective in late January and most recently, PHMSA finalized user fees to fund a training program for inspectors with oversight of underground storage facilities and other guidance materials.  While PHMSA moves forward in regulating these facilities, the State of Texas, INGAA, and AGA have challenged the rule and commenters have criticized the rule as rushed, poorly drafted, and unrealistic.
Continue Reading Underground Natural Gas Storage: Regulations and Fees Move Forward Despite Appeal and Criticism