On September 22, 2017, the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for its Pipeline Testing Regulations.  The Notice announces that DOGGR proposes to adopt regulations for pipeline testing and safety, as required under Assembly Bill 1420.

Assembly Bill 1420 (“AB 1420”) went into effect on January 1, 2016, and requires DOGGR to review, evaluate, and update, where appropriate, its existing regulations regarding all active gas pipelines that are 4 inches or less in diameter, are located in sensitive areas, and are 10 years or older.  As a result of AB 1420, DOGGR conducted intensive review of the existing pipeline regulations and studied the economic impact and the impact on small businesses, among other potential effects of the proposed regulations.  As part of these studies, DOGGR “made an initial determination that the adoption of these regulations may have a significant, statewide adverse economic impact directly affecting business, including the ability of California businesses to compete with businesses in other states.”  Pipeline Testing Regulations: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Action, at 7.

The Proposed Regulations address gaps in the regulatory requirements for active pipelines in sensitive areas that are 10 years or older.  They add several new definitions to the existing regulations, such as “active gas pipeline” and “sensitive area.”  An “active gas pipeline” is “an in-service pipeline that carries gas in gaseous or vapor phase and may contain fractional amounts of liquids, solids, and other nonhydrocarbon gases.”  Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 1760(a) (proposed).  A “sensitive area” is any of the following: (1) An area containing a building intended for human occupancy, such as a residence, school, hospital, or business that is located within 300 feet of an active gas pipeline and that is not necessary to the operation of the pipeline; (2) An area determined by the supervisor to present significant potential threat to life, health, property, or natural resources in the event of a leak from an active gas pipeline; or (3) An area determined by the supervisor to have an active gas pipeline that has a history of chronic leaks.  Id. § 1760(a) (proposed).

In addition, the Proposed Regulations impose additional pipeline inspection and testing requirements.  For example, “Operators shall inspect all active gas pipelines that are in sensitive areas and that are 10 or more years old for leaks or other defects at least once a year, or at a frequency approved by the Supervisor and listed in the operator’s Pipeline Management Plan.”  Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 1774.1(b) (proposed).  For some operators, such an inspection regime will be an extensive undertaking due to the hundreds of miles of pipelines that currently exist in California.  Vapor recovery pipelines are exempt from mechanical integrity testing under if they are equipped with safeguards, such as oxygen detectors and are leak tested at least quarterly.

Additionally, the Proposed Regulations add requirements for operators’ Pipeline Management Plans, such as including a list and maps of all pipelines that indicate which lines pass through sensitive areas, environmentally sensitive areas, urban areas, and designated waterways.  Again, this will be a significant expense for many operators due to the number of pipelines that have been installed over the years without the benefit of such detailed location maps.  The Proposed Regulations explicitly adopt testing as guidelines recommended by industry standards, such as the American Petroleum Institute, American Society of Mechanical Engineers for oil or gas pipelines.

Public comment on the Proposed Regulations is open until 5:00 pm on November 10, 2017.

Comments may be submitted by email to: DOGGRRegulations@conservation.ca.gov, by

fax to (916) 324-0948, or by mail to:

Department of Conservation

ATTN: Pipeline Testing Regulations

801 K Street, MS 24-02

Sacramento, CA 95814