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U.S. Department
of Transportation

Pipeline Safety Stakeholder Communications

Pipeline Safety Connects Us All

Our Federal Partners
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OPS collaborates and coordinates extensively with other federal agencies that share similar goals and objectives.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

U.S. Coast Guard

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

The NTSB is the independent federal agency that investigates significant aviation, railroad, highway, marine and pipeline accidents. NTSB also issues safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents. Relative to pipeline safety, the NTSB determines the probable cause of:

  • Pipeline accidents involving a fatality or substantial property damage;
  • Releases of hazardous materials in all forms of transportation; and
  • Selected transportation accidents that involve problems of a recurring nature.

When the NTSB is notified of a major pipeline accident, it launches a "Go Team," which varies in size depending on the severity of the accident and the complexity of the issues involved. The team may consist of experts in as many as 14 different specialties, coordinated by the "investigator-in-charge".

Each expert manages a group of other specialists from government agencies and industry in collecting facts and determining the conditions and circumstances surrounding the accident. After an investigation is completed, a detailed report is prepared that analyzes the investigative record, identifies the probable cause(s) of the accident and makes recommendations. Depending on the nature of the recommendations, they may be directed to OPS, other government agencies, industry associations, or pipeline operators. Working closely with NTSB is an important part of the OPS Problem Identification strategic goal. OPS places priority attention to resolving NTSB recommendations.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

FERC is an independent agency that regulates certain economic aspects of interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity. FERC also regulates natural gas and hydropower projects. Relative to pipelines, FERC approves both the siting and abandonment of interstate natural gas pipelines, as well as fuel storage and liquefied natural gas facilities. FERC also oversees environmental matters related to natural gas projects.

Because outside force damage, including third party damage, is a major cause of pipeline accidents, the siting of a pipeline can have important safety implications. FERC has recently asked OPS to join in supporting the evaluation of proposed natural gas pipeline siting plans.

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)

BSEE works to promote safety, protect the environment, and conserve resources offshore through vigorous regulatory oversight and enforcement. The Bureau is authorized and required to provide annual scheduled inspections and a periodic unscheduled (unannounced) inspections of all oil and gas operations on the outer continental shelf.

Department of Energy (DOE)

The mission of the Energy Department is to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions. The Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 instructed the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to "carry out a program of research, development, demonstration and standardization to ensure the integrity of pipeline facilities."

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

NIST is a non-regulatory federal agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce. NIST's mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. The Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 instructed the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to "carry out a program of research, development, demonstration and standardization to ensure the integrity of pipeline facilities. The Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 instructed the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to "carry out a program of research, development, demonstration and standardization to ensure the integrity of pipeline facilities."

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The Department of Homeland Security has a vital mission: to secure the nation from the many threats we face. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 established the Department of Homeland Security and set forth the primary mission of the Department. The DHS includes the Directorate for National Protection and Programs, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, among other organizational components.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

The BLM manages vast stretches of public lands and manages Federal onshore oil, gas and coal operations, including about 245 million surface acres and 700 million sub-surface acres of mineral estate. The BLM reviews and approves permits and licenses from companies to explore, develop, and produce both renewable and non-renewable energy on Federal lands. This includes issuing right-of-way grants and permits for energy pipelines. In addition, the BLM participates in a Cabinet-level working group that is developing a coordinated federal permitting process for siting new transmission projects that would cross public, state and private lands.

PHMSA has worked with BLM and other federal agencies to develop a coordinated and expedited permit review process for pipeline repairs. Pipeline operators are required to inspect their pipelines periodically and to repair defects that meet certain criteria. Federal pipeline safety regulations establish time limits for repair of some defects, based on their severity and the increased likelihood that they could result in a pipeline accident if left in service. Section 16 of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 required establishment of an Interagency Committee to improve the permitting process so that pipeline operators would be able to commence and complete repairs, which often require excavation, within the established time limits.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)

The FWS is an agency within the Department of Interior. FWS is responsible for assisting other federal agencies and the public in the conservation, protection, and enhancement of fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats, pursuant to the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act. FWS has specific responsibilities in implementing the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Federal agencies with permit authority over pipeline construction and repair, and the applicants for such work, are required to consult with FWS on projects that could affect resources under its purview.

OPS is working with FWS as part of the Interagency Committee mentioned above, to develop a coordinated and expedited permit review process.

OPS has also worked with FWS in defining Unusually Sensitive Areas (USA), areas in which release of hazardous liquids from pipeline accidents could cause unusually severe harm to protected and endangered species and their habitat. USAs were first defined in 2000 and are used as a basis for defining which hazardous liquid pipelines require special attention under integrity management regulations published that same year. FWS participated in a cooperative effort to define USAs, and facilitated the participation of the Nature Conservancy as well. OPS intends to update its USA maps periodically, to reflect changes in habitats, species newly-designated as requiring protection, and species for which special protection designations have been removed. OPS will work cooperatively with FWS in carrying out these updates.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The EPA is responsible for administering a wide variety of environmental laws. Responsibilities relevant to pipeline activities include commenting on Environmental Impact Statements, participating in Clean Water Act permitting activities, and reviewing authorized state's issuance of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for discharges of storm water from construction activities affecting more than one acre. Construction and replacement of pipelines, which are usually buried structures, involves considerable excavation and the involvement of EPA in various permit-related activities.

OPS is working with EPA as part of the Interagency Committee to develop a coordinated and expedited permit review process for pipeline repair activities. OPS also consults with EPA on rules that can result in environmental disruption in order to minimize impacts on areas under EPA purview while still assuring safe and economical operation of pipelines that are critical US energy assets.

U.S. Coast Guard

Among other responsibilities, the U. S. Coast Guard is responsible for safety, engineering and safety standards and facility inspections at our nation's deepwater ports, under the Deepwater Port Act of 1974 (as amended). The Maritime Safety Security Act of 2002 extended the definition of deepwater ports to include natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. DOT's Maritime Administration (MARAD) also has responsibility for licensing deepwater port applications, focused primarily on the financial capability and citizenship of applicants.

Natural gas is increasingly important to fuel the American economy. Natural gas has historically been used as a fuel to heat our homes and businesses, but is increasingly being used as a fuel to generate electricity. The result is a steadily increasing demand and a decreasing ability to meet that demand with available supply. A number of companies have expressed interest in addressing this supply/demand mismatch by developing new port facilities for the import of LNG into the U.S.

OPS has established regulations (at 49 CFR Part 193)that govern the safety of LNG facilities in the U.S. Additionally, OPS is working with the Coast Guard to assure that the review of any application for a new deepwater LNG port facility is coordinated to improve efficiency and timeliness of action, and the protection of health and safety in facility design and operation.