DOT releases pipeline guidelines to assist communities

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 17 -- The US Department of Transportation released new guidelines on Dec. 16 to help local governments, developers, and community planners do a better job of protecting areas near pipelines. The guidelines, which the Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance (PIPA) developed, marked the first time that recommendations for development near existing transmission pipelines have been issued, DOT said.

It said that the report, “Partnering to Further Enhance Pipeline Safety Through Risk-Informed Land Use Planning,” offers nearly 50 recommended practices for communities, developers, and pipeline operators to use to help reduce safety risks that result from community growth near pipelines.

DOT said the recommendations explain how land use planning and development decisions can help protect existing pipelines. They also provide recommendations on how communities can gather information about local pipelines; about how local planners, developers, and pipeline operators should communicate during all development phases; and how to minimize pipeline damage from excavation during site preparation and construction, it added.

PIPA is a 130-member stakeholders’ alliance, led by DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which DOT established in 2004 after the National Academies of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board published a report recommending a risk-informed approach to land use and transmission pipelines. Its members range from pipeline trade associations and federal, state and local government agencies to the National Association of Home Builders, the National League of Cities, and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

“The initial PIPA effort has resulted in recommended practices for local governments, property developers and owners, transmission pipeline operators, and real estate boards to implement as appropriate,” the new report’s executive summary said. “Two key practices address the development and implementation of ‘consultation zones’ and ‘planning areas’ when making decisions regarding land use planning and development near transmission pipelines.”

Oil and gas industry groups applauded the report’s release. The American Petroleum Institute and the Association of Oil Pipelines said in separate statements that the report encourages communities through which pipelines run to follow the recommended practices, and to protect from encroachment, the term for residential and business growth in previously rural areas over pipelines. API and AOPL also separately noted that the accompanying risk report shows that pipelines are the safest way to move fuels to consumers, but that they need to be respected and protected.

Interstate Natural Gas Association of America Pres. Donald F. Santa said PIPA’s recommendations provide a strong framework for local officials to make informed decisions about development near pipelines, which are as critically important for transportation as roads and railways. “Pipelines are the safest way to carry large amounts of energy over long distances, and they have coexisted with development for years,” he said, adding, “But all types of energy transport carry risks.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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