PHMSA advances control room regulation's effective date

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, June 17 -- A final rule to improve training, reduce fatigue, and clearly define roles and responsibilities for control room employees of federally regulated pipelines will go into effect 16 months ahead of schedule, the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said on June 15.

The requirements will establish shift lengths and maximum hours of service, and develop training programs for control room operators, PHMSA Administrator Cynthia L. Quarterman said.

“We pushed to accelerate these improvements because control rooms have an impact on how well and how quickly an operator responds to leaks or other problems,” Quarterman indicated. “This rule will increase the safety of pipeline operators’ control rooms and help ensure employees have the training they need.”

She said the action also was part of the US Department of Transportation’s National Pipeline Safety Action Plan to address immediate concerns in pipeline safety, such as ensuring pipeline operators know the age and condition of their pipelines, proposing regulations to strengthen reporting and inspection requirements, and making information about pipelines and the safety record of pipeline operators easily accessible to the public.

Testifying before a June 16 House Energy and Commerce subcommittee’s hearing on reauthorizing the federal pipeline safety act, Quarterman said the DOT agency is looking closely at pipelines it regulates following several recent serious incidents.

Systems apparently need more attention, and investments now will help ensure their safe operation in the future, she told the Energy and Power Subcommittee. Previous pipeline safety bills have provided more resources for enforcement, enhanced protection by requiring integrity management programs for distribution pipelines, and increased support for state pipeline agencies, Quarterman noted.

“We need to do more,” she continued. “Pipeline safety could be greatly improved with the passage of reforms pushing stronger enforcement authority, expanded integrity management requirements for areas beyond existing high consequence areas, improving pipeline infrastructure data collection, and advancing safety in other important ways.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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