Great Lakes, Coastal Beaches, and Certain Coastal Waters Further Protected by New Federal Pipeline Rule

February 2022

Environmental, Energy, & Climate Change Law and Regulation Reporter, Volume 2, Number 5

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a new pipeline safety interim final rule (Rule) on December 27, 2021 that increases environmental protections to the Great Lakes, coastal beaches, and certain coastal waters. (86 Fed. Reg. 73173.) The Rule implements mandates from the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016, as amended by the PIPES Act of 2020. Specifically, the Rule designates the three categories above as “Unusually Sensitive Areas” (USAs) and requires stricter pipeline Integrity Management Programs (IMPs) for nearby hazardous liquid pipelines in order to decrease spills. These more rigorous IMPs will implement measures like increasing standards for inspections, repairs, and safety protocols, as well as analyzing serious threats like corrosion.


PHMSA’s pipeline regulations set the safety requirements for pipelines that carry hazardous liquids, including crude oil and carbon dioxide. (49 C.F.R. § 195.) The regulations include enhanced requirements for pipelines in High Consequence Areas (HCAs) or in areas where a release could impact an HCA. Specifically, pipelines in or affecting HCAs are required to implement an IMP. HCAs are defined to include commercially navigable waterways, high population areas, other populated areas, and USAs. USAs were further defined as USA drinking water resources and USA ecological resources.

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