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Steptoe & Johnson PLLC: PUC of Ohio Finalizes Rules Implementing SB 315’s New Requirements For Gas Gathering

By Kathy Milenkovski.

On October 30, 2013, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (“PUCO”) finalized rules proposed late last year to implement new requirements brought about by the enactment of Senate Bill 315 and to clarify the applicability of the existing rules, in particular to gas gathering lines and related midstream operations.

The most significant addition to the rules is OAC 4901:1-16-15, a new rule created specifically to regulate and provide oversight of “gas gathering pipeline”1 and “processing plant gas stub pipeline”2 operators in accordance with Senate Bill 315. The rule establishes requirements for the purpose of safe construction of gas gathering pipelines and processing plant stub pipelines while also incorporating and clarifying the statutory pipeline safety requirements applicable to these types of previously unregulated pipelines. In addition, the rules require the submission of a preconstruction notification to the PUCO not later than 21 days before commencement of construction of a new gas gathering pipeline or processing plant gas stub pipeline. As-built drawings and route information must be submitted not more than 60 days following the completion of construction.

One new requirement that was finalized as proposed, despite some industry objections, is a provision in OAC 4901:1-16-05(D)(1) that requires each gas gathering/processing plant pipeline operator to provide a 24-hour contact report containing the names, business addresses, business telephone and fax numbers, and e-mail addresses of its emergency contact personnel. Commenters had suggested that the proposal, though understandable, was not practical because pipeline operator emergency response plans are fluid and routinely updated. Commenters had suggested providing a corporate emergency contact number rather than the names of individual operator employees. Nevertheless, the PUCO finalized the proposal without change, noting that in the past, “a general customer contact information line has not proven a reliable resource to adequately address safety concerns in these [emergency] situations.”

The rules must still undergo review by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) and will not go into effect until early 2014. The exact date is unknown as the PUCO has not filed the rule package with JCARR yet.

Click here for a copy of the rules, and the PUCO’s response to comments on the original proposal. Click here for a copy of the complete rulemaking docket available at the PUCO website.

If you have questions about these rules or how they might impact your business, please contact Kathy Milenkovski.

1"Gas gathering pipeline" means a gathering line that is not regulated under the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act, but includes a pipeline used to collect and transport raw natural gas or transmission quality gas to the inlet of a gas processing plant, the inlet of a distribution system, or to a transmission line.

2"Processing plant gas stub pipeline" means a gas pipeline that transports transmission quality gas from the tailgate of a gas processing plant to the inlet of an interstate or intrastate transmission line and that is considered an extension of the gas processing plant, is not for public use, and is not regulated under the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act.

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