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Summary of Enforcement Actions

Nationwide

These reports provide a summary of the various enforcement actions undertaken by PHMSA. They include those that have both been initiated by PHMSA as well as those that have been resolved by PHMSA in a given year. Enforcement actions that have been initiated through one of PHMSA's various enforcement mechanisms identify conditions requiring operator attention, with each enforcement action in and of itself representing one, a few, or many such conditions. Enforcement actions that have been resolved indicate that the necessary corrective actions for these previously identified conditions have been established to PHMSA's satisfaction.

This report represents the range of civil administrative enforcement case types that PHMSA brings against pipeline owners and operators. It does not reflect those cases which the agency has referred to other Federal officials for criminal prosecution, nor does it include more egregious civil cases that are referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for judicial enforcement. The table shows the total number of Corrective Action Order cases, Notice of Probable Violation cases, Notice of Amendment cases, Warning Letter case, and Notice of Proposed Safety Order cases initiated in a given year. Cases are considered initiated when the first enforcement document, which can vary by case type, is sent to the operator.

Cases Initiated: 2002-2014 (1)
Year Corrective Action Order Cases Notice of Probable Violation Cases Notice of Amendment Cases Warning Letter Cases Notice of Proposed
Safety Order Cases
2002 7 58 60 35
2003 19 47 48 29
2004 9 86 93 35
2005 9 98 133 57
2006 7 53 104 69
2007 7 69 102 77
2008 6 45 59 72
2009 5 58 50 68
2010 11 45 41 99 3
2011 10 70 60 61 6
2012 10 77 102 83 4
2013 5 82 85 92 2
2014 3 29 17 36 1
Totals 108 817 954 813 16

Corrective Action Orders: PHMSA may initiate a Corrective Action Order case if it determines that a particular pipeline represents a serious hazard to life, property, or the environment. They usually address urgent situations arising out of an accident, spill, or other significant, immediate, or imminent safety or environmental concern. In a Corrective Action Order case, PHMSA identifies actions that must be taken by the operator to assure safe operation. These actions may include the shutdown of a pipeline or operation at reduced pressure, physical inspection or testing of the pipeline, repair or replacement of defective pipeline segments, and similar measures. If PHMSA believes the conditions for a Corrective Action Order case exist, but the Order does not need to be issued expeditiously to prevent likely serious harm to life, property or the environment, the Operator will be given reasonable notice and an opportunity for a hearing before an actual Corrective Action Order is issued. In these situations, a Notice of Proposed Corrective Action Order is issued to the operator. Because of this, there is a difference between Corrective Action Order cases initiated and actual Corrective Action Orders issued. This tab measures Corrective Action Order cases opened, not the number of actual orders issued, which is represented on the "Enforcement Orders Issued" tab. Corrective Action Orders are described in 49 CFR 190.233.

Notices of Probable Violation: Notices of Probable Violations (NOPVs) are commonly used as an enforcement tool. After routine inspections, incident investigations, or other oversight activity by authorized Federal or Interstate Agent pipeline inspectors, the PHMSA Regional Director will determine if probable violations have occurred, and, if appropriate, issue an NOPV to the operator. The NOPV alleges specific regulatory violations and, where applicable, proposes appropriate corrective action in a Compliance Order and/or civil penalties. The operator has a right to respond to the NOPV and to request an administrative hearing. The administrative enforcement procedures and other regulations governing the enforcement program are described in 49 CFR 190 Subpart B "Enforcement."

Notices of Amendment: PHMSA inspections, incident investigations, and other oversight activities routinely identify shortcomings in an operator's plans and procedures under PHMSA regulations. In these situations, PHMSA issues a Notice of Amendment (NOA) letter alleging that the operator's plans and procedures are inadequate and requiring that they be amended. The operator has a right to respond to the Notice and to request an administrative hearing. Notices of Amendment and the procedures for their issuance and enforcement are described in 49 CFR 190.237.

Warning Letters: For some probable violations (often lower risk), PHMSA has the option of issuing a Warning Letter notifying the operator of alleged violations and directing it to correct them or be subject to further enforcement action. PHMSA then follows up on these items during subsequent inspections or through other interactions with the operator. Warning Letters are described in 49 CFR 190.205.

Notice of Proposed Safety Order: PHMSA may issue a Notice of Proposed Safety Order to notify an operator that a particular pipeline facility has a condition or conditions that pose a pipeline integrity risk to public safety, property, or the environment. A Notice of Proposed Safety Order addresses pipeline integrity risks that may not constitute a hazardous facility requiring immediate corrective action (see Corrective Action Order described above), but do need to be addressed over time. The Notice of Proposed Safety Order proposes measures the operator must take to address the identified risk. These can include inspection, testing, repair, or other appropriate actions to remedy the identified risk condition. Notices of Proposed Safety Order are described in 190.239. The 2006 Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement, and Safety Act gave PHMSA the authority to include a new enforcement tool - the Safety Order, and a final rule was published on January 16, 2009. Training in the use of this new tool was completed in June 2010.

This report represents the issuing of orders for the various types of enforcement actions against operators. It shows the number of Corrective Action Orders, Final Orders, Consent Orders, Orders Directing Amendment, Safety Orders and Decisions on Petition for Reconsideration that have been issued for a given year.

Orders Issued: 2002-2014 (1)
Year Corrective Action Orders Final Orders Consent Orders Orders Directing Amendment Safety Orders Decisions on Petition Total Orders
2002 7 38 0 10 3 58
2003 20 66 0 6 2 94
2004 9 62 0 3 4 78
2005 10 74 0 2 6 92
2006 7 88 2 1 6 104
2007 7 32 0 0 0 39
2008 5 41 0 1 5 52
2009 4 90 2 2 15 113
2010 12 89 0 1 0 8 110
2011 10 85 14 4 1 6 120
2012 10 87 7 2 2 8 116
2013 6 63 5 5 1 5 85
2014 3 36 2 1 0 1 43
Totals 110 851 32 38 4 69 1,104

Corrective Action Orders: A Corrective Action Order is used in Corrective Action Order cases, and can be issued before or after the operator has had a chance to respond to the alleged pipeline integrity risks in the case, either in writing or with an administrative hearing. The order can be issued before the operator has a chance to respond if PHMSA determines that the order is needed to prevent likely serious harm to life, property or the environment. If the order does not need to be issued immediately, the operator will receive a Notice of Proposed Corrective Action Order and have an opportunity to respond before the order is issued. Cases following this path cause the different in Corrective Action Order cases and Corrective Action Orders per year. The Corrective Action Order requires the operator to address any identified issues that cause their pipeline to be a hazardous facility.

Final Orders: A Final Order is often used in Notices of Probable Violation (NOPV) cases as the final adjudication, after the operator has had a chance to respond to the allegations in the case, either in writing or with an administrative hearing. The Final Order contains the findings of PHMSA on all items alleged in the case.

Consent Orders: A Consent Order is occasionally used as the final adjudication in a variety of case types, as a result of negotiations between PHMSA and the operator to enforce a Consent Agreement signed by both parties.

Orders Directing Amendment: An Order Directing Amendment is used in Notices of Amendment cases as the final adjudication, after the operator has had a chance to respond to the allegations in the case, either in writing or with an administrative hearing. The Order Directing Amendment contains findings for each item in the Notice of Amendment case, either dismissing the item or requiring the operator to make the changes to their plans and procedures.

Safety Orders: A Safety Order is used in Safety Order cases, after the operator has had a chance to respond to the alleged pipeline integrity risks in the case, either in writing or with an administrative hearing. The Safety Order requires the operator to address any identified issues that cause the pipeline integrity risk. The 2006 Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement, and Safety Act gave PHMSA the authority to include a new enforcement tool - the Safety Order, and a final rule was published on January 16, 2009. Training in the use of this new tool was completed in June 2010.

Decisions on Petition for Reconsideration: After an order is issued in any case, an operator may choose to appeal the decision reached in that order with a Petition for Reconsideration. In response to this petition, PHMSA will re-evaluate the evidence and issue a Decision on Petition for Reconsideration, which will either accept or deny the petition for each individual item in the case.

This report represents the closure of various types of enforcement cases against operators, and shows the number of Corrective Action Order cases, Notice of Probable Violation cases, Notice of Amendment cases, and Safety Order cases that have been closed in a given year. When an enforcement action is closed, PHMSA has verified that all corrective actions have been successfully completed, all civil penalties have been paid, that any inadequate procedures have been successfully addressed and no further action is required.

Cases Closed: 2002-2014 (1)
Year Corrective Action Order Cases Closed Notice of Probable Violation Cases Closed Notice of Amendment Cases Closed Safety Order Cases Closed
2002 2 42 28
2003 5 44 44
2004 5 51 50
2005 8 86 113
2006 5 82 115
2007 15 47 124
2008 7 39 88
2009 7 90 76
2010 8 88 48 0
2011 13 83 59 2
2012 15 83 82 3
2013 11 86 75 3
2014 4 40 42 1
Totals 105 861 944 9

Corrective Action Orders: A Corrective Action Order is used in Corrective Action Order cases, and can be issued before or after the operator has had a chance to respond to the alleged pipeline integrity risks in the case, either in writing or with an administrative hearing. The order can be issued before the operator has a chance to respond if PHMSA determines that the order is needed to prevent likely serious harm to life, property or the environment. If the order does not need to be issued immediately, the operator will receive a Notice of Proposed Corrective Action Order and have an opportunity to respond before the order is issued. Cases following this path cause the different in Corrective Action Order cases and Corrective Action Orders per year. The Corrective Action Order requires the operator to address any identified issues that cause their pipeline to be a hazardous facility.

Notices of Probable Violation: After an operator has been given an opportunity to respond to a Notice of Probable Violation, the Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety issues a Final Order, making findings of fact and ordering appropriate relief, if any. Civil penalties may be assessed and/or the operator may be required to comply with specified corrective actions. Only after PHMSA verifies that all corrective actions specified in Compliance Orders have been successfully completed and/or civil penalties paid are Final Orders considered closed. Notice of Probable Violation cases can also be withdrawn if new evidence or information becomes available that confirms the allegations in the Notice letter are not probable violations.

Orders Directing Amendment: An Order Directing Amendment is used in Notices of Amendment cases as the final adjudication, after the operator has had a chance to respond to the allegations in the case, either in writing or with an administrative hearing. The Order Directing Amendment contains findings for each item in the Notice of Amendment case, either dismissing the item or requiring the operator to make the changes to their plans and procedures.

Safety Orders: After the operator has been given the opportunity to respond to a Notice of Proposed Safety Order, there are two possible paths to case closure. PHMSA and the operator may agree to the issuance of a Consent Order in lieu of a Safety Order. In a Consent Order, the operator agrees to the jurisdictional facts of the case and agrees to implement the specific actions in the Consent Order by the required deadlines. Following the satisfactory completion of the actions required by the Consent Order the case is closed. If PHMSA and the operator are not able to agree upon a Consent Order, the Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety issues a Safety Order directing the operator to take certain corrective and/or remedial actions. Following the satisfactory completion of these actions, the case is closed. The 2006 Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement, and Safety Act gave PHMSA the authority to include a new enforcement tool - the Safety Order, and a final rule was published on January 16, 2009. Training in the use of this new tool was completed in June 2010.

Also see

Sources

  1. PHMSA Safety Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) for the Pipeline Safety Enforcement Tracking System as of Sept 8, 2014.

For comments and questions on the enforcement information presented on this site, please send us feedback.

Information provided on this website is intended to enhance public understanding of PHMSA's enforcement program. Aggregate and company-specific statistical information reflecting PHMSA's enforcement actions is provided beginning with 2002. Key documents associated with new administrative enforcement cases are provided beginning with 2007. Agency orders issued since 2002 are also provided. The search feature may not retrieve every document associated with each individual enforcement action. Enforcement data is updated monthly as additional cases are initiated and other cases are resolved. Historical totals will change over time to reflect changes in case status.

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