PHMSA extends compliance time for new rules in response to GPA Midstream and API petition

In response to a joint petition from GPA Midstream and American Petroleum Institute, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced it will give operators more time to comply with new rules that went into effect last week.

The extension isn’t a complete stay of the final rule but comes in the form of PHMSA implementing limited enforcement. The limited enforcement period went into effect on June 28 and will last until Jan. 1, 2025. That means the agency will “...exercise its discretion to refrain from taking enforcement action to provide operators with the ability to comply with either the updated industry standards” or the standards already in place before the new final rule, according to the PHMSA’s official notice on June 20.

PHMSA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, also advised state regulatory agencies with pipeline safety enforcement authority to follow suit with the discretionary enforcement.

On May 29, GPA Midstream and API requested reconsideration of the final rule called, “Pipeline Safety: Periodic Updates of Regulatory References to Technical Standards and Miscellaneous Amendments.” A group of five other oil and gas industry associations joined API in a separate petition filed the same day. The two groups also filed petitions to delay the effective date of the final rule.

GPA pointed out that its members would incur irreparable damage if weren’t given more time to comply with the updated standards for projects currently in the works. The decision by PHMSA to use its discretion in enforcement of the new regulations over the next six months will give operators time to do the needed personnel training, implement new procedures and acquire the needed materials.

The limited enforcement provision during the next six months is crucial for ongoing and upcoming projects. PHMSA’s notice said the limited enforcement period will “facilitate timely operator compliance efforts in light of the summer/fall 2024 construction season in much of the country.”

The discretion goes beyond the GPA/API petition to include all updated industry standards in the final rule.

“This will provide regulatory flexibility to pipeline operators while at the same time maintaining an equivalent level of safety during the current construction season,” PHMSA wrote in the notice.