Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - February 2009
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Commissioners: “New Pipeline Safety Rules Approved Today”
Houston County Courier - February 2009
AUSTIN- All three Texas Railroad Commissioners who oversee the state’s top energy and pipeline regulatory agency-the Texas Railroad Commission approved rules that will place natural gas production and flow lines in heavily populated areas under the state’s safety jurisdiction.
Production and flow lines typically are low-pressure pipelines that transport natural gas from a well to a gathering line. A gathering line gathers natural gas from several wells and delivers it to a gas plant or transmission pipeline. Previously, production and flow lines in urban populated areas were unregulated under federal law and had no safety requirements.
The rules, which become effective on March 2, will now require that production and flow lines in populated areas be operated and maintained according to state pipeline safety rules. These rules address several factors including design, construction, operating pressures and testing, emergency response and damage prevention.
Additional pipeline rules also became effective on Feb. 4 that will require natural gas distribution pipeline operators to submit leak reports every six months to the Railroad Commission. These rules were adopted by the three Railroad Commissioners at a Jan. 15 conference.
The new rules require natural gas distribution pipeline operators to submit online reports covering all leaks repaired on their pipeline systems every six months beginning in July 2009. The reports also must list leaks identified and the number of unrepaired leaks remaining on pipelines.
Under the new rules, new pipeline construction reports also will now be required to be filed with the Commission on new liquefied petroleum gas (LPG-propane) distribution systems. Previously, new construction reports were only required for new natural gas and hazardous liquid pipeline systems.
Commenting on the commission’s regulation of production and flow lines, Chairman Victor Carrillo said, “As drilling and production has expanded into urban areas, such as Fort Worth and the Barnett Shale region, adopting these enhanced pipeline safety rules will help to assure the public that pipelines transporting natural gas from wells located in heavily populated areas continue to be under the watchful eye of the state’s regulatory agency.”
Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones said, “Overall, these new rules help raise the bar on already high standards set by the Railroad Commission in pipeline safety for decades now. This action adds to our agency’s numerous firsts as Texas is now the first state in the nation to regulate all pipelines in heavily populated areas.”
Commenting on the new leak reporting requirements, Commissioner Michael L. Williams said, "This requirement is a preventative measure that further ensures the safety of our citizens. The leak reports enable the commission to gather data from pipeline systems across the state. We will then review this information to identify and address any trends or potential problems with the state's infrastructure more comprehensively."
In addition to new rules adopted this year, the Commission also adopted rules last year that increase the frequency of natural gas inspection leaks and shorten natural gas leak repair time frames. The rules, which became effective September 2008, require Grade 1 leaks to be repaired immediately, as they are considered hazardous to people or property nearby. Grade 2 leaks must be reevaluated monthly and repaired within 6 months. Grade 3 leaks must be reevaluated within 15 months and repaired within 3 years. Grades 2 and 3 leaks receive a lower level grade only if the gas leak is considered non-hazardous due to its location and magnitude of the leak. Non-hazardous leaks pose no danger of explosion.
Previously, Grade 1 leaks required immediate repair, and Grade 2 and Grade 3 leaks were scheduled for repair some time in the future.