Natural Gas Pipeline Safety
Colorado Public Utilities Commission's (COPUC) Gas Pipeline Safety Section (GPS) is charged with enforcing the state's gas pipeline safety regulations in order to provide for the public safety of the citizens of Colorado. Nationally, the majority of pipeline inspections are carried out by state inspectors who work for state agencies. If a state has a certified pipeline safety program, a state agency is responsible for conducting inspections of intrastate pipelines that lie entirely within a state's borders. Through its 60105 Agreement with the U.S. DOT, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the COPUC GPS conducts and carries out the inspection and monitoring of intrastate gas pipeline system operators.
Jurisdictional facilities include transmission, distribution, regulated gathering, master metered, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and larger (>10 structures served) propane (LPG) gas systems. The COPUC does not currently have jurisdiction over pipelines directly associated with gas production. As of the end of 2012, Colorado’s jurisdictional intrastate pipelines totaled approximately 54,000 miles of gas distribution; 3,200 miles of gas transmission; and 1,000 miles of regulated gas gathering.
The PHMSA Western Region Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) inspects interstate natural gas and all hazardous liquids pipeline systems located in Colorado. Questions regarding these facilities should be directed to the Western Region OPS.
The COPUC also works with trade and technical organizations representing the pipeline industry, utility damage prevention, and other State and Federal Agencies to effectively carry out its mission of public safety as related to pipelines. As excavation damage is currently the largest single threat to our state’s pipelines, the Utility Notification Center of Colorado (UNCC) is an important resource for understanding the laws, methods, and means of reducing utility damage in Colorado.
Section 49 C.F.R. Part 192 regulations have been adopted by reference in PUC rules Part 4 CCR 723-4, Rules Regulating Gas Utilities and Pipeline Operations | Gas Pipeline Safety Rules Section only, 723-4-4900 Gas Pipeline Safety rules.
Pipeline Safety Act of 2011
On January 3, 2012, the President signed into law the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011. The Act reauthorizes federal pipeline safety programs through fiscal year 2015 and provides “for enhanced safety and environmental protection in pipeline transportation.” Specifically, this version of the act will eventually result in additional pipeline safety rules regarding:
- Notice to the National Response Center (NRC) of a defined pipeline incident no later than one (1) hour after a confirmed discovery; and
- Expansion of regulations requiring the use of excess flow valves (EFVs) in certain applications, when technically feasible (e.g., multifamily and small commercial facilities).
The Act also requires/authorizes DOT PHMSA to conduct studies on a number of pipeline issues, such as:
- The impact of third-party excavation damage on pipeline safety;
- The ability of operators to respond to pipeline releases in defined high-consequence areas (HCAs); and
- Pipeline operator efforts to replace cast iron pipelines.