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Interpretation Response #PI-09-0020 ([Illinois Commerce Commission] [Mr. Darin R. Burk])

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

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: Illinois Commerce Commission

Individual Name: Mr. Darin R. Burk

Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

August 11, 2010

Mr. Darin R. Burk

Manager, Pipeline Safety Illinois Commerce Commission

527 East Capitol Avenue

Springfield,IL 62701

Dear Mr. Burk:

In a letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) dated October 14, 2009, you requested an interpretation regarding the applicability ofthe pipeline safety regulations to certain pipelines operated by United States Steel Corporation (USS) in the vicinity of its Granite City Works (GCW) steelmaking complex in southern Illinois. These pipelines consist of: (1) natural gas pipelines transporting natural gas supplied by Centerpoint Energy's Mississippi River Transmission (MRT) pipeline to various GCW facilities; and (2) a pipeline transporting coke oven gas produced in one GCW facility and transported to another GCW facility for processing and burning. You stated that the GCW complex consists of a number of facilities separated by one State highway and several public streets which are accessible to the public. You asked whether the pipeline safety regulations applied to these lines and if so whether they should be classified as distribution lines or transmission lines.


Natural Gas Pipelines

With respect to the natural gas pipelines, you stated that the GCW complex receives the natural gas through four taps from the MRT pipeline. Three of the taps are located on the grounds of GCW facilities and connect to an interconnected system of pipes within and between the facilities. You stated that the system of piping that connects to the three taps leave the GCW property boundaries six times. You stated the fourth tap is off ofa separate MRT transmission line and is located outside of the facility's property. You stated that you had no indication that the natural gas pipelines operate above 20 percent of specified minimum yield strength (SMYS).

The Federal pipeline safety laws in 49U.S.C. 60101 et seq. apply to the gathering, transmission, and distribution of natural and other gas by pipeline. Typically, a transmission pipeline transporting gas to a destination facility such as a large volume customer is subject to the pipeline safety laws and regulations up to the point where pressure control changes from the pipeline operator to the destination facility operator (which can be on the grounds of the facility). Beyond that point, piping operated by the facility operator entirely on the grounds ofthe facility is considered "in-plant piping" and would not be subject to the pipeline safety regulations although it may be subject to State building codes or other regulations. In this case, however, the natural gas pipelines operated by GCW are not located entirely on the geographically contiguous grounds ofa facility. Rather, these lines depart GCW facilities and cross roads and highways accessed by the public, albeit for relatively short distances. To the extent such lines are not on plant property they are subject to the pipeline safety laws. Historically, PHMSA has elected not to apply the Federal gas pipeline safety regulations to such lines ifthey are associated with the plant, meaning they are operated by plant personnel, run between plant buildings, and are less than one mile in length. PHMSA, however, would not object to a State regulating the portions of such lines that are not on plant property ifthe State determined there was a need. Note that a State that regulates its intrastate gas pipelines under a Public Utility Commission (PUC) may need to determine whether the PUC is restricted to only regulating "public utilities" which GCW presumably is not.

With respect to the question of whether such a line is a transmission line or a distribution line, PHMSA has not taken a position on that since we currently do not regulate such lines as stated above. If a State decided to begin regulating such lines, one possible approach the State could take would be to provide advance notice to operators of such lines that it would treat a line operated below 20% SMYS as a distribution line and a line operated above 20% SMYS as a transmission line, provide an opportunity for comment as appropriate under State procedures, and publish a final policy.


Coke Oven Gas Pipeline

With respect to the coke oven gas pipeline, you stated that a mixture ofgaseous hydrocarbons produced by the facility is transported several thousand linear feet before it is burned. You further stated that most ofthis distance is located under the public right of way, some of which runs beneath a public sidewalk outside the fence from the facility in which the gas is burned. Because the coke oven gas is produced in one GCW facility and is transported to another GCW facility under public right-of-way and public sidewalk, this pipeline is subject to the pipeline safety regulations. With respect to classifying such a line as a transmission or a distribution line, you could take a similar approach as the one suggested above.

We were pleased to see that you secured a commitment by USS to comply with Illinois' pipeline safety requirements as evidenced by its letter of May 1, 2009. Your participation in the Federal/State pipeline safety program is greatly appreciated.

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


John A. Gale

Director, Office of Regulations

Regulation Sections

Section Subject
192.3 Definitions