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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Interpretation Response #PI-97-0101 ([Shell Western E&P Inc.] [Mr. R. J Redweik])

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

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: Shell Western E&P Inc.

Individual Name: Mr. R. J Redweik

Location State: TX Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:


U.S. Department of Transportation
Research and Special Programs Administration
400 Seventh Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20590

September 16, 1997

Mr. R. J Redweik
Staff Environmental Engineer
Shell Western E&P Inc.
P.O. Box 576
Houston, TX 77001

Dear Mr. Redweik:

This is in response to your letter dated June 16, 1997, requesting further clarification of the Research and Special Programs Administration's (RSPA) regulation of Shell Western E&P Inc. pipeline facilities transporting non-HVLs through low stress lines in Cook Inlet, Alaska. You described these facilities as accepted from 49 CFR Part 195 regulations because they transport petroleum in onshore gathering lines in rural areas. As this letter explains, the facilities are regulated under Part 195.

The pipeline facilities are subject to part 195 requirements because, for purposes of the pipeline safety regulations, we do not consider the facilities to be located onshore. Although the pipeline safety regulations do not define onshore, offshore is defined in § 195.3 as being "beyond the line of ordinary low water along that portion of the coast of the United States that is in direct contact with the open seas and beyond the line marking the seaward limit of inland waters." The facilities are located in the waters of Cook Inlet, which average a depth of 100 feet, 35 foot tides, and 7 knot currents. Cook Inlet is in direct contact with the open seas, as evidenced by tides and currents. Recent pipeline safety legislation and regulations have focused on the potential hazards to navigation posed by submerged pipeline facilities. Thus, our intent in delineating onshore from offshore waters is to focus on waters where submerged pipeline facilities pose a risk to the public and the environment. The pipeline facilities in Cook Inlet pose a safety hazard to navigational traffic.

Because the Coast Guard has the same concern with navigational hazards, we refer to its regulations for establishing the line of demarcation. (33 CFR part 80.) The Coast Guard's regulations do not consider Cook inlet as inland waters. Although alternative definitions for determining inland waters exist, such as one based on Federal/State boundaries, these definitions have no relevance to the pipeline safety laws.

Furthermore, the facilities are regulated under Part 195 because they are located in a navigable waterway. Cook Inlet is a navigable waterway, which is navigable in fact by commercial navigation. RSPA clarified the regulatory 'status of such lines in amendment 53 to 49 CFR 195 (59 FR 35465). This amendment addressed the applicability of Part 195 regulations to pipelines that operate at 20% or less of specified minimum yield strength (SMYS) in navigable waterways. Although rural gathering lines were exempted, pipelines in navigable waterways were not accepted because of the greater risk they pose to the public and the environment.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me at (202) 366­4565. I am confident that Shell Western E&P Inc. shares in our commitment to the safety and integrity of the nation's hazardous liquid pipeline system. I look forward to our continued partnership in furthering our common goals.


Richard B. Felder
Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety

Regulation Sections

Section Subject
195.1 Which pipelines are covered by this Part?
195.3 What documents are incorporated by reference partly or wholly in this part?