The White House has approved an executive order requiring all pipeline companies to “enforce” federal pipeline safety standards.
The order also instructs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a rule requiring the construction of “a system that enables all pipeline operators to effectively and efficiently assess the safety and performance of their pipelines,” according to the order.
Trump signed the order last week.
“Pipeline operators will have to be able to show that they have effective and efficient systems to assess pipeline safety and to take corrective action,” the order states.
The executive order also includes a new rule for federal agencies to require pipeline companies with fewer than 1,000 active employees to notify the government within five days if they experience “any adverse event that is deemed to be related to the operation of a pipeline.”
The order does not require pipeline operators or owners to tell the government about any such adverse events.
A White House official told The Washington Post that the order “is a continuation of President Trump’s goal to ensure that all pipeline infrastructure is safe and that we have systems in place to ensure safe and effective operations.”
Trump signed a similar executive order in December, saying the country “must have the strongest pipeline system in the world.”
The pipeline inspector jobs order does allow pipeline operators with fewer employees to continue to operate with a safety certification that allows them to make “any necessary changes or modifications to ensure the safety of the pipeline and its systems.”
But the order does specifically require them to notify federal agencies if they “have any adverse event” that is “not related to operations or operations of the pipelines.”
In the wake of the December order, some pipeline companies have started to put in place their own safety plans and train employees on how to assess risks and respond to problems.
The Obama administration had required that pipeline operators must submit safety plans for their pipelines to the Department of Transportation (DOT).
The DOT has said the rule was a compromise to address concerns from private industry.
But the Trump administration is moving forward with the order, which is intended to give pipeline companies more flexibility in how they conduct safety assessments.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the department that oversees pipeline safety, said last week that it was “reviewing the President’s order to make sure it is consistent with the DOT’s requirements and the best interests of the public.”
“It’s a good step in the right direction,” said Bob Matson, executive director of the American Energy Alliance, a trade group that represents the interests of pipeline companies.
“We don’t think the Trump Administration has taken that step yet.
It still has to be reviewed by DOT, and I think it’s a very good step.”
The EPA issued a final rule in December for the National Pipeline Safety Board to develop “safety plans” for the nation’s pipeline systems.
The final rule, which was expected to be released in March, says pipeline safety should be assessed “through a process of safety analysis” and that “any corrective actions should be undertaken by pipeline operators on a case-by-case basis, as necessary to address safety concerns.”
The final order does also state that the DOT “will not consider the safety or performance of a natural gas pipeline system” when assessing safety or efficiency standards.
“Any such safety or environmental assessments shall include, but are not limited to, safety assessments regarding the safety, performance, and utility of a domestic natural gas-powered electrical system, the energy efficiency of a nuclear plant, the ability of a coal plant to generate electricity, and the ability and potential impact of a carbon-capture and storage plant on climate change,” the final order states, adding that the agency will “provide additional guidance to pipeline operators as needed to facilitate safety and efficiency assessment.”
The new order says the agency’s final rule “is intended to be advisory, not final.”