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Posted: 05 Sep, 2017

2017 Shows Sharp Increase in PHMSA Enforcement Actions

The Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) initiated 144 new enforcement cases from January 2017 to July 2017; compared with 164 cases in 2016, 197 cases in 2015, and 154 cases in 2014.

Notice of Amendment enforcement actions have risen by 80% versus the previous three-year average, while Warning Letter actions have increased by 71%.

Analysis of PHMSA website data on filing suggests an increased focus on hazardous liquid pipeline safety.

From 2014–2016, PHMSA filed an average of 41 Notice of Amendment against pipeline operators. As of July 2017, PHMSA has already filed 17 Notices of Amendment enforcement cases against gas or liquid natural gas pipeline operators and 25 for hazardous liquid pipelines. Although this shows a trend towards an 80% increase over the past three years, when Notices of Amendment filed against hazardous liquid pipeline operators are isolated the difference jumps to 108%.

As of July 2017, PHSMA had already met the 2014–2016 average of 65 Warning Letters. It is projected that the number of warning letters sent to hazardous liquid operators will likely double this year.

It seems that oversight of hazardous liquid pipeline operators is increasing, specifically regarding Warning Letters for ‘lesser’ violations of pipeline safety regulations and Notices of Amendment for these operators’ plans and procedures. Such ‘lesser’ violations include inadequacies in maintenance, inspection, and record-keeping, failure to adhere to policies and procedures, and a lack of adequate policies and procedures. Similarly, most Notices of Amendment are related to failures by operators to maintain and/or adhere to adequate procedures for pipeline safety.

PHMSA is stepping up enforcement to make sure pipeline operators implement and follow required pipeline safety procedures.

Source: The National Law Review