Federal agencies Regulation Pipeline Transportation

National Academies calls for enhanced regulation of liquefied petroleum gas systems

petroleum storage tanks
Photo: soner tuncer/iStockphoto

Washington — Federal regulation of small distribution systems for propane and other liquefied petroleum gas should be revised for clarity, efficiency, enforceability and applicability to risk, a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concludes.

“Because compliance with the federal regulations is not enforced consistently by states, there is little understanding of how the requirements affect the safety of the gas pipeline systems, particularly the smallest ones with fewer than 100 customers,” a Sept. 10 press release from the National Academies states.

Liquefied petroleum gas systems that serve 10 or more customers, or those that have at least two customers and are in a public place, are subject to Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regulations.

States, meanwhile, can have their own regulations governing liquefied petroleum gas systems. National Fire Protection Association codes can cover those systems as well.

The report states that PHMSA should clarify the term “public place” for liquefied petroleum gas pipeline operators and regulators.

“Operators of LPG pipeline systems also should be required to report to regulators the location, number and safety performance of their systems that fall under federal jurisdiction,” the release states.

Once the systems are pinpointed and states have confirmed inspection activity, the report calls on PHMSA to establish a waiver program allowing operators to opt out of federal requirements “that the state has determined are not in line with the risk presented by the operator’s system.”

The report recommends that PHMSA review states’ waiver programs periodically.

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