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Interpretation Response #PI-09-0011 ([Interstate Natural Gas Association of America] [Mr. Terry D. Boss])

Below is the interpretation response detail and a list of regulations sections applicable to this response.

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: Interstate Natural Gas Association of America

Individual Name: Mr. Terry D. Boss

Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

July 17, 2009

Mr. Terry D. Boss

Senior V.P. of Environmental Safety and Operations

Interstate Natural Gas Association of America

lOG Street, N .E., Suite 700

Washington, DC 20002

Dear Mr. Boss:

In a letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) dated March 20, 2009, you requested that PHMSA interpret the statutory seven-year gas pipeline integrity reassessment interval to allow reassessments to be conducted every seven calendar years not to exceed 90 months. You expressed your view that the current requirement to conduct reassessments seven actual years from the anniversary date of a segment's last assessment did not provide adequate flexibility to pipeline operators in the event of unanticipated developments and seasonal considerations.

Under 49 U.S.C. 601 09(c)(3)(B), gas pipeline operators are required to periodically reassess the integrity of pipeline facilities covered by their integrity management programs "at a minimum of once every 7 years ... ". The implementing regulations at 49 CFR § I 92.939(a) require that reassessments and alternative methods of reassessments such as confirmatory direct assessments be conducted within the seven-year period after the previous assessment of a covered segment. This requirement is also reflected in a Frequently Asked Question available on PHMSA's website reprinted as FAQ 41 below:

FAQ 41

Question: Does the requirement that an operator establish inspection intervals not to exceed a specified number of years mean calendar years (i.e., pipe assessed in 2004 must be re-assessed during 2011) or actual years?

Answer: Re-assessments must be conducted within the specified number of actual years. For example, a pipe segment assessed on March 23, 2004, must be re-assessed before March 23, 2011, using at least confirmatory direct assessment. This segment would need to be re-assessed using one of the methods specified in the rule before March 23,2014, March 23, 2019, or March 23, 2024, depending on its operating stress (see § I 92.939).

Therefore, the current requirement is seven actual years from the anniversary date of the last assessment of a covered segment.

In your letter, you contend that it would have been permissible under the statute for PHMSA to adopt a requirement of seven calendar years not to exceed 90 months as you have proposed rather than the seven actual year requirement given Congress' intent and the legislative context and history. You also point out that a number of other inspection intervals established by PHMSA in Part 192 provide for additional flexibility in the interval.

In implementing the statute, PHMSA adopted the seven actual year requirement and did so by formal rulemaking. Therefore, a change from the current seven actual year requirement to the seven calendar years not to exceed 90 months approach you are advocating would also have to be done by rulemaking and cannot be accomplished by "re-interpretation." The other intervals you point out were all established by rulemaking, not by interpretation.

Accordingly, the seven actual year requirement must remain in place unless and until a regulatory proceeding to fonnally amend the rule is undertaken. At that time, PHMSA would invite comment on whether your approach is warranted in tenns of safety and is consistent with the statute.

I hope that this information is helpful to you. If I can be of further assistance, please contact me at (202) 366-4046.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey D. Wiese

Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety

Regulation Sections

Section Subject
192.939 What are the required reassessment intervals?