PHMSA Issues COVID-19 Notice Relaxing Enforcement Actions for Gas and Liquids Pipelines, Gas Storage Facilities and LNG Facilities

by Kelly A. Daly

In response to the Declaration of a National Emergency relating to the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Office of Pipeline Safety issued an important notice to operators of gas pipelines and storage facilities, hazardous liquids pipelines and liquified natural gas facilities.

The PHMSA notice specifically recognizes that operators may be faced with limited personnel resource constraints due to COVID-19 that may require actions that do not fully meet federal Operator Qualifications (OQ), Control Room Management (CRM) requirements, employment drug testing requirements or other regulatory requirements under 49 C.F.R. Parts 190 through 199. In response to this National Emergency, PHMSA has announced that it does not intend to take any enforcement action against affected operators related to OQ or CRM requirements, and PHMSA will consider exercising its enforcement discretion with regard to incidents relating to drug testing requirements.

In addition to promptly notifying their regulator(s), operators who are affected by exigent circumstances due to COVID-19 and who have determined that they cannot comply with these identified regulations are directed to maintain documentation explaining: 1) what specific requirements are not being met; 2) how the non-compliance is related to COVID-19; and 3) what alternative measures are being taken to ensure public safety and the protection of the environment.

Prompt communications with the PHMSA Office of Public safety should be emailed to: Pipeline-COVID-19-notices@dot.gov.

In addition, intrastate operators regulated by State Authorities are directed to contact their State Program Manager whose contact information is available at: http://www.napsr.org/state-program-managers.html.

A copy of the PHMSA Notice can be accessed at here.

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