On January 23, 2017, the Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration (PHMSA) published the Operator Qualification, Cost Recovery, Accident & Incident Notifications, and Other Pipeline Safety Changes Final Rule. Within that final rule were new requirements for the inspection and testing of service lines off of production, gathering, and transmission pipelines – commonly referred to as farm taps (§192.740). Soon after the publication of the Final Rule industry trade associations, including APGA, encouraged PHMSA to revisit this new requirement as many complexities were not originally discussed during the rulemaking process.
In response on March 26, 2019, PHMSA issued a Notice of Enforcement Discretion for the inspection and testing requirements. It stated that PHMSA “will not take enforcement action against operators who forego the new maintenance and inspection requirements established in March 2017 and instead mitigate any future risk associated with farm taps through compliance with the existing DIMP regulations.” This enforcement discretion is still in effect. This codification of this flexibility is now being proposed in PHMSA’s new Gas Regulatory Reform Proposed Rule published on June 9, 2020. APGA is working with the other industry trade associations to develop comments on that rulemaking.
To address the numerous other concerns with §192.740, PHMSA has developed FAQs. On April 22, 2020, PHMSA published its proposed Farm Tap FAQs. APGA joined the other pipeline trade associations (Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, the American Gas Association, and the American Petroleum Institute) to submit comments. To view the comments, please go to www.apga.org/comments. The commenting associations commended PHMSA for making significant improvements to these FAQs since their original publication in 2018. But in order for this guidance to be practicable and consistent with long-standing operational practices, additional changes are needed to FAQ #3 and other FAQs that address the point on PHMSA-jurisdictional piping at which the transmission line ends and the distribution service line begins. The associations explained that it is neither practicable nor necessary for safety to establish a uniform service line starting point for every transmission line farm tap. The Associations explained that PHMSA should instead allow operators to designate the end of transmission piping and the start of distribution service line piping at the first isolation point off of the source piping (as proposed in the draft FAQs), the first fitting off of the source piping, or another reasonable point, such as a downstream valve, regulator, meter, fitting, or custody transfer point, including the connection to customer piping.
For questions on this article, please contact Erin Kurilla of APGA staff by phone at 202-464-2742 or by email at email@example.com.