The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced that it is taking steps to implement new measures to strengthen its safety oversight of carbon dioxide (CO2) pipelines around the country and to protect communities from dangerous pipeline failures. The new measures, as well as an enforcement action already taken, are a result of PHMSA’s investigation into a CO2 pipeline failure in Satartia, Mississippi in 2020 that resulted in local evacuations and caused almost 50 people to seek medical attention.
To strengthen CO2 pipeline safety, PHMSA is undertaking the following:
- initiating a new rulemaking to update standards for CO2 pipelines, including requirements related to emergency preparedness and response;
- issuing a Notice of Probable Violation, Proposed Civil Penalty, and Proposed Compliance Order (NOPV) to Denbury Gulf Coast Pipeline, LLC for multiple violations of Federal pipeline safety regulations (PSRs);
- completing a failure investigation report for the 2020 pipeline failure in Satartia;
- issuing an updated nationwide advisory bulletin to all pipeline operators underscoring the need to plan for and mitigate risks related to land movements and geohazards that pose risks to pipeline integrity; and
- conducting research solicitations to strengthen pipeline safety of CO2 pipelines.
“I really visited the first responders in Satartia to hear firsthand of the pipeline failure so we can improve safety and environmental protections for CO2 pipelines and work to protect communities from experiences like this,” says PHMSA Deputy Administrator Tristan Brown. “The safety of the American people is paramount and we’re taking action to strengthen CO2 pipeline safety standards to better protect communities, our first responders, and our environment.”
PHMSA’s investigation identified a number of probable violations in connection with the 2020 accident, including the following alleged failures:
- the lack of timely notification to the National Response Center to ensure the nearby communities were informed of the threat;
- the absence of written procedures for conducting normal operations, as well as those that would allow the operator to appropriately respond to emergencies, such as guidelines for communicating with emergency responders; and
- a failure to conduct routine inspections of its rights-of-way, which would have fostered a better understanding of the environmental conditions surrounding its facilities that could pose a threat to the safe operation of the pipeline.
PHMSA has longstanding and comprehensive guidance on its enforcement of PSRs as well as its civil penalties, which are calculated using a range of criteria and based on statutory limitations. Under the authorities granted by Congress, PHMSA may propose civil penalties, with the recipient of the NOPV being able to contest, contest in part, or accept them. A pipeline operator that receives a proposed civil penalty may also request and receive an informal hearing before a presiding official of the agency and prior to a proposed civil penalty being finalized.
PHMSA publishes its entire history of enforcement actions online for public consumption, available here.
Source: PHMSA, www.phmsa.dot.gov.