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PIPA Recommended Practice BL06

BL06 "Implement New Development Planning Areas around Transmission Pipelines"

Practice Statement Local governments should consider implementing "planning areas" to enhance safety when new land use and property development is planned near transmission pipelines.

Audience(s): Local Government

Practice Description

Local governments should consider implementing "planning areas" to enhance safety when new land use and property development is planned near transmission pipelines. A planning area can provide for the application of additional development regulations, standards, or guidelines to ensure safety when development occurs in close proximity to a transmission pipeline. PIPA recommended practices ND11 through ND23 describe additional considerations for use within a planning area.

Risk is defined as the product of the probability of an incident occurring and the consequences of that incident. Existing pipeline safety regulations focus on reducing pipeline risk by prescribing strict design, construction, operation and maintenance, and inspection requirements for pipeline operators. However, transmission pipeline operators have direct control only over activities within their easements or rights-of-way.

Land use planning regulations that address the development of property near a pipeline easement are generally developed and implemented by local governments (cities, towns, townships, counties, parishes). Such measures can help reduce the potential consequences and, thereby, the potential risks of transmission pipeline incidents. Local governments should make informed, risk-based decisions on how to manage land use and property development near transmission pipeline rights-of-way. These decisions should be balanced with other planning considerations to avoid placing undue burdens on land use and property development near transmission pipelines.

A planning area distance should be measured from the transmission pipeline centerline. So that planning area requirements are appropriately applied to proposed land uses and developments, a site-specific distance based on the characteristics of the pipeline (e.g., pipeline diameter, operating pressure, potential spill volumes, transported commodities, unrestrained flow characteristics of transported commodities) and the area surrounding the pipeline (e.g., topography, population density, vegetation, structures, etc.) should be determined. Local governments should work with the pipeline operators to determine site-specific pipeline characteristics when developing their planning area distances.

A planning area should not be construed as an unsafe area and the planning area distance is not intended to be used as a fixed setback distance. Rather, a planning area is a corridor in which additional measures, such as those described in PIPA recommended practices ND11 through ND23, may have potential benefits in protecting transmission pipelines, mitigating the immediate consequences of a transmission pipeline incident, and facilitating emergency response to a potential transmission pipeline incident.

Absent site-specific information, it is suggested that a standard planning area distance, on either side of the pipeline centerline, of 660 feet be used for natural gas transmission pipelines. For hazardous liquid pipelines, also absent site-specific information, it is suggested that a standard planning area distance in a range from 660 to 1,000 feet be considered. The suggested standard distances are intended to apply to common pipeline sizes and pressures and don't take into account the possibility of flow of liquid or heavier than air gases. Thus, in either case it is recommended that communities develop and utilize site-specific distances for planning areas, based on the unique characteristics for the pipeline and the area surrounding the pipeline. As noted, the transmission pipeline operator can be helpful and should be consulted in assisting local governments to better understand the pipeline characteristics when they develop site-specific planning area distances.

Generally, planning areas larger or smaller than the standard distances may be warranted. High/low operating pressure, large/small pipe diameters, type of product carried and local topography can influence the potential impact of a transmission pipeline incident on nearby development. More information on further refining planning area distances is provided in Appendix I. American Petroleum Institute (API) Recommenced Practice (RP) 1162 includes recommendations for collaboration among pipeline operators, property owners/developers and emergency response officials that may be helpful in developing criteria for a planning area. PHMSA and state pipeline safety regulators may also be consulted. API RP 1162 applies within 660' of gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipelines.