PHMSA Grants States Emergency Waiver Authority for OQ and D&A Rules

By John Erickson posted 09-07-2017 10:59


PHMSA issued letters on September 6 to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico, informing them that PHMSA would not object to those states’ pipeline safety regulatory agencies granting intrastate operators emergency waivers for pipeline workers' required drug testing (both pre-employment and random) and OQ requirements. These conditions are limited to the duration of the emergency caused by the hurricane, not to exceed 30 days. This means the states can grant waivers immediately, without the 60-day review period normally required by PHMSA rules.

PHMSA’s drug and alcohol rules require operators to perform pre-employment drug and alcohol tests before a person can perform certain tasks on the operator’s pipeline system. Those persons are included in a random testing pool thereafter. Similarly, PHMSA operator qualification rules requires operators to have evaluated the qualifications of each person performing covered tasks on the operator’s pipeline system.

Under the Pipeline Safety Act, states are required to submit all proposed waivers of regulations to PHMSA for review. PHMSA then has 60 days to review the proposed waiver and inform the state if the waiver is approved or rejected. In light of the circumstances posed by Hurricane Irma, PHMSA has informed states that PHMSA waives the opportunity to review such waivers and has no objections to the state immediately issuing waivers as long as the waiver is limited to the time period of the emergency caused by the hurricane or 30 days, whichever is less. PHMSA may allow waivers to be extended beyond 30 days if circumstances warrant.

PHMSA's letter can be found here (all five letters are identical). For questions on this article, please contact John Erickson of APGA staff by phone at 202-464-0834 or by email at