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DOT's Pipeline Emergency Power Expanded

Allows emergency restrictions when danger to the public is present

October 05, 2016

Federal pipeline regulators issued a rule Tuesday to expand their agency’s power to regulate pipelines that pose an imminent threat to public safety or the environment. 

If finalized, the rule would give the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) the power to issue emergency restrictions and safety measures on gas or liquid pipeline operators if their pipelines present dangers to the public. 

Examples of when PHMSA may need to use this enhanced authority include instances where a serious manufacturing flaw has been discovered in pipe, equipment or other materials, or when an accident reveals a specific industry practice that is unsafe and needs immediate correction.

"Pipeline incidents can have devastating impacts on local communities and the environment," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. "The new regulations carry out DOT's enhanced authority to compel industry to take immediate action to address problems that put people, property or the environment at risk. We hope we never have to use it, but it is an important safety tool that will result in greater protection for the American public."

The new rule is part of the new powers given to PHMSA in a pipeline safety bill Congress approved unanimously earlier this year and was signed by President Obama on June 22.The legislation gives PHMSA the power to quickly issue new emergency orders for pipeline operators or the entire industry is there is a widespread problem. 

The law also reauthorized PHMSA and directed it to complete work on a set of mandates passed in a 2011 pipeline safety law.  

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