U.S. pipeline regulator issues rule to speed up notification time

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 19, 2017 3:04 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) said on Thursday it issued a rule to improve pipeline operational safety, including a requirement for faster notification following a spill.

The rule says the operator must electronically or telephonically report notice of an accident or incident within one hour of confirmation, PHMSA said in a statement.

There have been rising concerns regarding the safety of pipelines transporting hazardous liquids, after activists spent months protesting plans to route the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, saying the project poses a threat to water resources and sacred Native American sites.

PHMSA's rule also includes provisions for operator qualification, cost recovery and other pipeline safety changes and will become effective 60 days from the date of its publication in the Federal Register. It is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 23, 2017.

PHMSA said the rule also amends drug and alcohol testing requirements. It now requires drug testing of employees after an accident and will allow exemption only when there is sufficient information that establishes the employees had no role in the accident.

The proposed changes come after incidents such as in 2010 when an Enbridge Energy Partners pipeline spill near Michigan's Kalamazoo River leaked crude oil for about 17 hours before it was confirmed by control room operators.

Pipeline leak detection systems typically relay information to a control room, where trained operators are often required to distinguish between false alarms and real leaks.

The rule announced on Thursday addresses mandates included in the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011, PHMSA said.

(Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)