Andrew Lu PHMSA Publishes Final Rule on Distribution Integrity Management

Last week the Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) at long last issued its final rule for Distribution Integrity Management Programs (DIMP), a monumental, performance-based regulation that took several years to craft.  We’re pleased that PHMSA stayed true to the principles included in the DIMP Phase 1 Report, published back in December 2005. We’re also pleased that PHMSA followed the various recommendations of the Technical Advisory Committee, which provided guidance on this rule in December 2008.

The collaborative approach taken by PHMSA allowed input from state regulators, public interest groups, contract excavators, and  of course, natural gas distribution operators.  As a result of efforts exerted by all these stakeholders, our industry now has a regulation that is flexible, reasonable, and cost-effective for operators to implement.  Coming on the heels of Operator Qualification and Transmission Integrity Management, it was critical for our members to have a rule that does not impose a huge financial burden.  And the rule enables utilities to devote the resources to those measures which can truly make the biggest difference in reducing overall system risk and enhancing public safety.

The rule represents a vast improvement over the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) issued back in June 2008. Several proposed items were removed or significantly scaled down.  These include the removal of Prevention Through People (PTP), the elimination of a plastic pipe failure reporting database, and removal of burdensome documentation requirements that would have forced operators to keep detailed information of all decisions made relating to their DIMP Program.

Those seeking details on the final rule can send me an email at  AGA will be hosting a free audio conference on December 15 at 2:00 pm ET to review the regulation.  You can  register for the session here.

Although we have a rule we all feel good about, there is still much work ahead!  AGA staff looks forward to working with our members and helping them implement the provisions in the rule.  We also expect to work with the state and federal regulators, so that our members can be assured that enforcement of the regulation is consistent with the intent of the new rule.

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