Feds tighten controls on abandoned pipelines

Abandoned pipelines are facing new scrutiny from the Obama administration.

The Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued an advisory bulletin Monday that tightens controls on pipeline operators.

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"To the extent feasible, owners and operators have a responsibility to assure facilities for which they are responsible or last owned do not present a hazard to people, property or the environment,” the agency wrote.

The new rules target abandoned pipelines that once carried hazardous liquids. Before abandoning a pipeline, operators must “purge all combustibles and seal any facilities left in place,” the agency said.

"Pipelines not currently in operation are sometimes informally referred to as ‘idled,' ‘inactive,' or ‘decommissioned.' These pipelines may be shut down and still contain hazardous liquids or gas,” the PHMSA warned.

"If a pipeline is not properly abandoned and may be used in the future for transportation of hazardous liquid or gas, PHMSA regulations consider it as an active pipeline,” the agency said.

"Owners and operators of pipelines that are not operating but contain hazardous liquids and gas must comply with all applicable safety requirements, including periodic maintenance, integrity management assessments, damage prevention programs, response planning, and public awareness programs."

The advisory bulletin goes into effect immediately.