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PHMSA seeks clarity on gas safety rule; Dominion: Atlantic Coast pipe on track


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PHMSA seeks clarity on gas safety rule; Dominion: Atlantic Coast pipe on track

'While we wait, there's risk': Pipeline experts push for gas safety rule clarity

The federal pipeline safety regulator is considering separating and clarifying one of the most complex sections of the agency's proposed gas transmission safety rule, potentially speeding up the process of finding aging pipes' safe operating pressures.

The sweeping gas transmission safety rule, issued in 2016, would have companies collect data on a wide variety of pipe characteristics if the operators did not have clear records documenting those traits. The requirement was included in a code section intended to make sure companies know the maximum allowable operating pressures, or MAOPs, of all transmission lines, even older pipes that are missing some of their original documents.

Despite those data points, the pipeline industry has contended there is only one test — a hydrostatic pressure test — that can confirm the MAOP. All of the other data collection the rule proposal asked for would slow down the process of figuring out what the safe operating pressures are, some members of the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's gas pipeline advisory committee said June 7.

Atlantic Coast pipeline on track amid permitting twists, Dominion official says

Dominion Energy Inc. expects to weather the federal and state permitting processes and start construction on the $5 billion-plus Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline project later in the year.

At the level of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the fact that the commission is temporarily down to only staff-issued filings should not delay a final environmental impact statement, a Dominion official said June 6 at the LDC Gas Forum Northeast in Boston.

Dan Diefenbach, manager of facility planning and product development at Dominion Energy Transmission Inc. and Dominion Cove Point, also said he anticipates no trouble at the state level, after Virginia announced that it would step back from what it originally said would be a hard look at the project's water crossings in the state.

Atlantic Coast project opponents ask court to review water permit

Opponents of the Dominion Energy Inc.-led Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline asked a Virginia court to knock down the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality's water quality permit for the project.

The groups Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, Bold Alliance and Preserve Craig filed a petition for appeal on June 5 with the Virginia Circuit Court for the City of Richmond. The groups want to overturn the state agency's decision to issue a water quality certificate for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Nationwide Permit 12. The Army Corps permit, which regulates pipeline construction in and adjacent to Virginia waters, was issued in March.

The groups claimed the Department of Environmental Quality issued the certification without the proper authority. They said it lacked certain analyses and did not consider "adverse evidence in the record." They said the department improperly notified the public about the certificate, failed to provide sufficient time for public input and did not consider important local factors of state waters.

Federal pipe safety regulator working through Trump's 2-for-1 deregulation order

With multiple planned rulemakings and pending congressional directives in the works, the federal pipeline safety regulator is sorting through how Trump administration limits on new regulations will affect the agency's policymaking.

In the coming weeks, the U.S. Department of Transportation, which houses the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, plans to publish guidance in the Federal Register on how the department is handling executive orders related to energy independence and regulatory burden, Alan Mayberry, PHMSA's associate administrator for pipeline safety, said at a June 6 meeting.

Specifically, the notices should address the department's plans related to President Donald Trump's executive order requiring agencies to identify at least two prior regulations to eliminate for every one regulation proposed with an eye to preventing net increases in regulatory costs.

Senators ask trade representative to preserve free energy flows in NAFTA redo

Eight U.S. senators pressed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to keep oil, natural gas and electricity flows to and from Canada and Mexico free of restrictions as the Trump administration looks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"NAFTA has played a key role in all North American energy markets including electricity, renewable, oil, and natural gas, as each market is highly integrated with and remains dependent on vital energy infrastructure and trade crossings that border the United States, Canada, and Mexico," the bipartisan group led by John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., wrote June 8. "Free trade — and free trade agreements ... such as NAFTA — allows the United States to maximize the benefits of being the world's largest energy producer."

Alaska LNG fires back at environmental groups, says state has 'unique' role

After environmental groups sought to block the proposed Alaska LNG project, the state-backed developer contested the groups' claims that the massive venture would benefit only corporate interests, saying the "unique" role of the state government ensures the public interest is shared by project sponsors.

In separate motions to intervene in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's review of the project, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity urged regulators to consider impacts to wildlife, air and water that they said would come from increased gas drilling as well as the project itself. The Sierra Club, which has challenged the commission's approval of other LNG export projects, also called on FERC to look at non-environmental issues, saying the review must "consider whether most people will be made worse off by the project, even if a few people — e.g., the project's corporate backers — will experience great benefits." The Sierra Club asked FERC to deny the project.

"Ironically, the Sierra Club's erroneous reference to the 'project's corporate backers' demonstrates the opposite of the point it is trying to make,"Alaska Gasline Development Corp. said in a June 6 motion. "It is precisely because this project is sponsored by a state government, which is required by its constitution to use the state's natural resources for the benefit its citizens, that the interests of the applicant and the public coincide."