Report – Pipeline Safety Trust Annual Conference

This week past, I traveled to the Pipeline Safety Trust Annual Conference.  This is my third year attending the  Conference.  If you are not familiar with Pipeline Safety Trust, well, let me tell you this — When it comes to pipelines, PST is the only nationally,  Credible, Independent organization that acts in the Public Interest.  What makes their Annual Conference unique is that Industry, Regulators, Local Government Officials, and Pipeline Safety Advocates are brought together for 2 days of presentations and conversation that many times would not otherwise occur.    As usual, the conference was fantastic, and I had the opportunity to talk with industry, advocates, local government officials and our industry friends from Alberta, Canada as well.    In Canada’s gathering fields, the gathering lines have the same regulations as transmission lines!     Makes me wonder why not only our Federal Government, but also,  our great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania continues to place a low priority on regulating the thousands of gathering lines in Pennsylvania.

So, without further adieu, I’m going to share the highlights with you.

This year’s theme – PIPELINE SAFETY – BEYOND KEYSTONE:  Expanding the Public Spotlight   – did exactly that.  Topics covered ranged from regulations, consequences, public awareness, public involvement, local authority, unregulated gathering lines, major pipeline expansions proposed, regulators, pipeline safety management systems, PIPA [Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance], the annual landowner panel, and safety drivers.    I’m only going to share a few items with you now that I thought brought the most benefit to our region as examples, goals, and information.

Public Awareness Extravaganza – Can you have Public Awareness without industry and regulator awareness?

” Public Transparency and information holes?”    –    Samya Lutz, PST Outreach Coordinator

Annually, PST publishes a Transparency Review of State Pipeline Websites.  Samya noted that while PST does not have an award for Most Improved Transparency, if they did, Pennsylvania would be the winner this year.  Some of you may know that in the past year, PA PUC updated their website.   As a result, their hardwork was noted.  Last year out of  52 entities  PA ranked 37th below 8th ranked TX.  This year, PA ranked 7th amassing 21 out of a possible 32 points and ranking above 8th placed TX.  Keep in mind, this has to do with transparency, not safety issues.  Transparency rated as how easily an interested citizen is able to discover information concerning a pipeline in their area.   This information does not relate to gathering lines.  However, it is still valuable to those who live near transmission lines.  If you want to see the Review, refer to the current newsletter, page 11.

Samya also noted that PST has received another DOT PHMSA Technical Assistance Grant.  PST will be updating their Landowner’s Guide to Pipelines and creating a new Local Government Guide to Pipelines.  Both will be readily available upon publication.  Since PST created the Landowner’s Guide, I have referred many landowners to this publication.  It is a good resource and is available on PST’s website.  I expect the Local Government Guide will prove just as beneficial once it is available.


Industry efforts to listen to public desires – Shawn Lyon, Vice President of Operations, Marathon Pipe Line LLC

Shawn gave a lot of detail of what Marathon Pipe Line does in order to listen to landowners.  He also mentioned part of that listening motivation came from listening to folks like PST,  landowners and advocates that attend the PST Annual Conferences.  He mentioned that not only listening, but learning is important.  Marathon Pipe Line created a couple landowner focus groups.  From that effort a number of good efforts came about.  Shawn gave such a great presentation, I could write a lot, but instead I’d encourage you to view the presentation once it is available on the website, and tell the Northern Tier Operators about it as well.  In a nutshell, here is what they did.

2011 – Since 75% of hits along their pipelines were from farmers — they focused on farmers and the need to call 8-1-1 before digging anything below 18″.  They mailed farmers postcards and magnets encouraging the calling of 8-1-1.

2012 – MPL distributed a Safe Digging Guide for Residents — which included a spiral bound, hardcover book that on page one had a picture of the consequences of hitting a pipeline.  Shawn stated that residents need to have a healthy fear of pipelines, in other words, be knowledgeable of what some of the risks and consequences are.  They distributed kits that include the book, a pair of work gloves, a magnet, and a county area/level map of pipelines near their property, additional information of the size of the pipe and what product is being transported, specific information to their property.  Also they realize that properties change hands, so every six months they are reviewing property transfers and sending kits to the new owners.  In addition, MPL has learned that people want more details about pipeline near their properties.  Thus, MPL created on their website a module that residents can type in their address and the pipeline mapping will indicate pipeline/s near their property.  They are also working on a phone app.  Shawn said that MPL wants people to know where pipelines are because the consequences could be severe.

2013 – Farmer Drain Tile Field Video was released as well as a series of Public Service Announcements.  Links to these are found on out webpage PIPELINES/ADDITIONAL PIPELINE-GATHERING LINE RESOURCES.   MPL’s survey indicated that 76% of folks were aware of 811, but only 56% of folks would call 811.  These PSAs are available for anyone to view, they now have 3 available, and they are relevant for anyone who is digging on their property who may encounter any kind of pipelines or utilities.


Also of interest to us in the Northern Tier is the Panel:  Gathering Lines – Thousands of new miles.  Unregulated?  Really??

I was most interested in this particular panel.  This was the first year a gathering operator was participating with a presentation since I had been attending.  I was really looking forward to hearing from the industry.  The gathering line issue is just huge in PA, including our Northern Tier where virtually just about every gathering line is non-jurisdictional and un-regulated.    I will say, I was disappointed with the industry presentation, it was not representative to what we are experiencing here with unregulated – non-jurisdictional gathering lines. Rather than belabor the point, I will just reflect back on a blog post from October 14th:  One such company this week, is an operator in our midst who bragged that  ”And the key element here is you will notice that everything that we do is non-jurisdictional. So you are going to find other MLPs and other peers who have to have large groups of lawyers and spend quite a bit of time in Washington with FERC, you won’t see that in our model.”

Thus, with a salespitch like that, you just know there would not be any information recommending regulation in that presentation.


You will want to tune into David Lykken of NAPSR – National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives.  Some of the information that David noted was that there are now 32 gas/liquid producing states and there is a need for consistency and safety regulations for all gathering lines.  He stated that oversight of Class 1 Area locations are required to enhance safety.  He also said that no matter what the class location, people should be afforded the same measure of safety no matter where they reside if for no other reason than current regulations cover a very small amount of gathering lines.  NAPSR urges PHMSA [the pipeline regulators] to move forward with a gas gathering rulemaking.  He noted that states are looking for a minimal standard from PHMSA  that they can build upon.  And, the #1 reason to regulate Class 1 Area gathering lines, it comes down to safety.




Josh Joswick, a Colorado Front Range Organizer of the Oil &Gas Accountability Project presented next.  Josh noted he’s been involved with oil and gas issues for 25 years and  provided an update of Colorado pipelines.  While his presentation focused on CO, he did state a number of interesting and relevant items during his presentation.

Josh advocated that since the state of Colorado has neither interest nor funding to regulate gathering lines, the local governments should take it on, and get this — because they CAN.

Josh talked about the Myth of Regulation. He noted — and how many times have we heard this one — that in 25 years, anytime the state or local governments moved towards regulating the industry, they were told the industry would leave.  The industry continually responded, if you regulate us, we will leave.  He further noted, that over that time – 25 years, the state and local governments have adopted regulations and the industry is thriving in the state of Colorado under those regulations.  Regulation does not run the industry off.

Josh extended into the Myth of Self-Regulation.  “We don’t need to be regulated as we do what is best on our own.”  The question is best for whom?   Josh noted that “Self-regulation is not an effective public policy.”

He asked the question, what does CO do to regulate gathering lines?  He then noted and reviewed the 1100 Series regulation that is barely an excess of 2 and 1/3 pages, and really it didn’t look like much.  Actually, it looks like PA and CO are pretty much playing a similar game with the industry when it comes to regulating gathering lines including Class 1 Area locations.

Josh continued with his advocating that CO local governments should regulate because they can.  He stated that in CO the state lacks the capacity to do so, lacking both funding and staff.  He noted that local governments have authority and responsibility to public safety and welfare [sound familiar?].  He then noted that the CO statutes through land-use authority both implied and specifically stated that local governments are to consider public health, safety and welfare when determining land-use.  Josh went on to detail what that meant in the state of Colorado.


Tim Felt, President and CEO of Colonial Pipeline was the keynote speaker on Day 2.  His focus was Unannounced Emergency Response Drills.  He said this is the closest thing to the real deal.  Through this process they were able to be better prepared.  They created an Emergency Response Advisory Board which created great dialogue and input. They hold two meetings annually.

Tim shared an experience where questions were asked to various parties regarding how often trainings occurred.  The idea was to improve on frequency.  In the end, he related how effective the trainings had become, and that when they had an unfortunate incident, everyone knew what to do and the process went smoothly.  He said their goal is always zero incidents, which is often spoke of at such a conference.


The final panel that really stood out for me was Pipeline Safety Management Systems – A real pathway to safer pipelines or just a lot of incomprehensible jibber jabber?  This topic, Pipeline Safety Management Systems, was a recommendation that came from NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] to API [American Petroleum Institute].  There are many stakeholders involved with this, although an attendee noted that no one was representing labor and gave reasons why labor should be represented.

No one was representing gathering lines either – operators or otherwise.  And, I do understand the “why” – as operators don’t want to be regulated so they’d probably sprint away from such an opportunity that involves creating a framework under which issues like integrity management plans and first response would be part of a larger process.  Also, no agency can do more than strongly suggest that an unregulated gathering operator develop a Pipeline Safety Management System.  And, just as an FYI, there are gathering operators that operate exclusively in non-jurisdictional/unregulated Class 1 Area locations – their stockholder information brags it up as we know.

To continue, the use of SMS’s is a common practice in many industries.  Extending this to the pipeline industry is definitely a good thing.  There will be a webinar in February, 2014 and then a public comment period will open afterwards and run through April, 2014.  This will be an opportunity for us to advocate that gathering operators are included in the process of developing their own Gathering Line Safety Management Systems.  The idea behind this PSMS, is that a framework is developed that covers all areas of safety, in other words PLAN – DO – CHECK – ACT, the core of such a standard, and one that would constantly be in review thus, bringing pipeline incidents closer and closer to zero.


Well, I’ve gone way over my limit this week, so for those interested in the Conference, once the videos are posted, I’ll be advising and posting the links.


Emily Krafjack, President