Texas AG seeks review of PHMSA’s final underground gas storage rule

Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton (R) asked a federal appeals court to review the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s final underground gas storage rule, saying that it improperly overrides the authority of the Texas Railroad Commission and similar agencies in other states to regulate such facilities. He filed a petition for review on Mar. 17 with the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton (R) asked a federal appeals court to review the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s final underground gas storage rule, saying that it improperly overrides the authority of the Texas Railroad Commission and similar agencies in other states to regulate such facilities. He filed a petition for review on Mar. 17 with the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

PHMSA unilaterally and impermissibly converted the American Petroleum Institute’s nonmandatory underground gas storage recommendations into mandatory requirements on Jan. 17 when its interim final rule went into effect without any notice or comment period, Paxton said in Austin. This stripped Texas and other over intrastate and interstate underground natural gas facilities, which eroded a traditional state regulatory role over intrastate gas facilities, Paxton said.

“Despite state laws and programs that regulate these facilities with respect to conservation, environmental protection and protection of property rights, the PHMSA effectively stripped the states of authority over their own natural gas facilities and completely disregarded traditional state regulatory roles,” Paxton said.

Paxton noted that according to TRC, 18 active facilities in Texas store gas in salt caverns, and 13 more store gas underground in depleted reservoirs. TRC has regulated underground gas storage facilities for more than 30 years, but PHMSA’s final interim rule requires the sites’ operators to petition the US Department of Transportation agency to obtain delegations, which would require TRC to fully adopt PHMSA’s regulation, the attorney general said.

PHMSA issued the interim final rule in December as a first step in addressing well integrity, wellbore tubing, casing, and other underground gas storage downhole issues raised by a leak at Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage facility near Los Angeles at yearend 2015 that took months to stop (OGJ Online, Dec. 14, 2016).

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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