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Hurricane Florence Preparedness and Response

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

PHMSA continues to monitor the movements of Hurricane Florence to better understand the storm's potential effect on hazardous materials and pipeline operations.  This webpage provides critical information regarding PHMSA's pipeline and hazardous materials safety programs to assist in response and remediation efforts associated with the storm's impacts.  

Pipeline Operations

PHMSA is working with states and pipeline operators within the path of Hurricane Florence, or that could potentially be directly affected by the hurricane to remove obstacles to safe prevention and recovery efforts. Operators continue to aggressively implement their hurricane preparedness plans and are taking actions to minimize the impact of the storm. 

PHMSA issued a Stay of Enforcement to all interstate gas and hazardous liquid pipeline operators who may contain limited resources due to the storm. The document alerts operators that the agency will temporarily halt its enforcement of compliance with operator qualification requirements, but does not relieve operators of their safety responsibility to use trained, non-impaired workers to perform operation and maintenance tasks. 

PHMSA will be working with operators to discuss and potentially delay or reschedule planned inspections of pipeline systems and facilities impacted by the hurricane.

Emergency Waivers

In support of actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard, PHMSA issued an Emergency Waiver Order on September 12, 2018, to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a threat to public health, welfare, or the environment caused by actual or potential oil and hazardous materials incidents resulting from Hurricane Florence in the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

PHMSA also encourages state pipeline safety partners to consider suspending certain enforcement efforts for noncompliance in the interest of prompt and efficient pipeline safety activities related to response and recovery efforts for Hurricane Florence. PHMSA forwarded letters to the states of Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, that enables each state to grant requests for emergency waivers from intrastate operators of pipeline operator qualification requirements for up to 30-days.

Additional Helpful Information

Several advisory bulletins issued by PHMSA in the past are available for reference to further assist pipeline operators in their efforts to respond to emergency situations and ensure they remain in compliance with Federal pipeline safety regulations.

PHMSA's Pipeline Safety program staff is continuing to work closely with the Department of Energy and Department of Homeland Security to monitor the status of critical infrastructure in the impacted areas. For those needing to access underground infrastructure in affected states or territories, PHMSA encourages a call to 811 prior to beginning any digging project. Visit the Common Ground Alliance for more information.

Additionally, PHMSA is aware that some operators may need to extend the hours-of-service for pipeline controllers for a variety of reasons, such as if other controllers are unable to get to the office or are handling their own flooding issues at home. Guidance on pipeline operator hours-of-service requirements is available HERE.

To learn more about obtaining a hazardous materials emergency special permit, click HERE.

To learn more about obtaining a pipeline safety emergency special permit, click HERE.

For additional information regarding emergency special permits or hazardous materials transport, please call the offices below:

  • Hazardous Materials Information Center: 800-467-4922
  • Hazardous Materials Approvals and Permits Division: 202-366-4535
  • Office of Pipeline Safety: 202-366-4595

For information and resources related to other transportation modes, visit DOT's Resources for Hurricane Florence webpage.

Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2018