Steptoe & Johnson PLLC: Ohio Pipeline Safety Rules Under Review

Steptoe & Johnson PLLC: Ohio Pipeline Safety Rules Under Review

By Katerina E. Milenkovski and  Kurt L. rieger

 The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) kicked off its 5-year review process of the Pipeline Safety Rules in Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 4901:1-16 by holding a public workshop on January 16, 2014 to take input from the regulated community about suggested revisions or improvements to the rules. By statute, agency rules are required to be reviewed every 5 years to ensure that they are current, relevant and essential. Where changes are deemed necessary, rulemaking will be initiated to revise or rescind outdated rules.

Participants at the workshop were informed that all pipeline safety rules were up for consideration – meaning the as-yet not effective rules adopted pursuant to Senate Bill 315 were also going to be included in the review process. This was welcome news to many of the attendees who had come to the workshop solely to raise concerns with those new rules, which are pending before the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR). Specifically, several of the workshop attendees provided comments about Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) 4901:1-16-15, which specifies the design and material criteria for gathering lines in class one areas by incorporating the standards of 49 CFR Part 192, Subpart C. There is a concern that Rule 4901:1-16-15 precludes the use of composite materials in Ohio even though such materials would be acceptable elsewhere through a waiver process. Several commenters urged the PUCO to interpret the current rules to allow waivers for the use of such materials or to amend the rules to expressly provide for the use of composite materials, which are safer in many respects, pointing out that the rules should not preclude the use of newer, better technologies.

In addition to the pipeline design and materials issues in OAC 4901:1-16-15, comments were also received concerning the requirement to perform inspections every 8 hours on pipelines with temporary repairs. The suggested revision was to change this inspection requirement to daily instead. Also, the Commission staff was urged by another commenter to raise the dollar criterion that triggers certain reporting requirements from $200,000 to $500,000 to adjust for inflation.

After the Commission has had an opportunity to consider the feedback received at the workshop, proposed rule amendments for OAC Chapter 4901:1-16 will be issued for comment. 

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