Railroad Commission adopts new pipeline safety rules

Prohibits installation of cast iron pipes; adds new requirements for incident/accident reporting

New pipeline safety rules adopted by the Railroad Commission of Texas prohibit natural gas distribution pipeline operators from installing underground cast iron, wrought iron or bare steel pipelines. Other new pipeline safety requirements require operators to more thoroughly assess the potential public safety risk of gathering lines. The amendments became effective Jan. 6, 2020.

The Commission adopted these amendments on Dec. 17, 2019 – weeks before a Dec. 31, 2019 statutory deadline for House Bills 864 and 866 passed by the 86th Legislature last year.

Local distribution gas pipeline operators transport natural gas to households and businesses through thousands of miles of small-diameter distribution pipes. RRC’s new pipeline rules also require these natural gas distribution pipeline operators to replace any known existing cast iron pipelines by Dec. 31, 2021.

“The Railroad Commission’s highest priority is public safety,” said RRC’s Executive Director Wei Wang. “These new amendments enhance our existing rules requiring pipeline operators to construct, operate and maintain their pipelines in compliance with Texas laws and regulations.”

“With more than 469,000 miles of pipelines, Texas’ pipeline infrastructure is key to delivering energy to Texans, the nation and world,” Wang said. “By taking truck traffic off the highways, pipelines continue to be one of the safest ways to transport crude oil and natural gas.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, it would take a constant line of tanker trucks, about 750 per day, loading up and moving out every two minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to move the volume of even a modest pipeline.

Under the new measures, gathering line operators are required to report incidents and accidents on gathering lines that result in a death or in-patient hospitalization; property damage of $50,000 or more; or estimated gas loss of three million cubic feet or more. Operators also must submit a corrective action plan to the Commission to remediate an accident, incident or threat that creates a public safety risk or address a public safety complaint. Gathering lines transport gases and liquids from the commodity’s source-such as a wellhead-to a processing facility, refinery or a transmission line.

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