Pipeline Safety and Security: Federal Programs
Pipeline Safety and Security:
Updated October 6, 2008
Paul W. Parfomak
Specialist in Energy and Infrastructure Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Pipeline Safety and Security: Federal Programs
Nearly half a million miles of oil and gas transmission pipeline crisscross the
United States. While an efficient and fundamentally safe means of transport, many
pipelines carry hazardous materials with the potential to cause public injury and
environmental damage. The nation’s pipeline networks are also widespread, running
alternately through remote and densely populated regions; consequently, theseth
systems are vulnerable to accidents and terrorist attack. The 109 Congress passed
the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-468) to improve pipeline
safety and security practices, and to reauthorize the federal Office of Pipeline Safety.
The 110th Congress passed the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11
Commission Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-53), which President Bush signed on August 3,
2007. Provisions in P.L. 110-53 mandate pipeline security inspections and potential
enforcement (§ 1557) and require federal plans for critical pipeline security and
incident recovery (§ 1558). Congress is overseeing the implementation of these acts
and examining ongoing policy issues related to the nation’s pipeline network.
The Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS), within the Department of Transportation
(DOT), is the lead federal regulator of pipeline safety. The OPS uses a variety of
strategies to promote compliance with its safety regulations, including inspections,
investigation of safety incidents, and maintaining a dialogue with pipeline operators.
The agency clarifies its regulatory expectations through a range of communications
and relies upon a range of enforcement actions to ensure that pipeline operators
correct safety violations and take preventive measures to preclude future problems.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), within the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS), is the lead federal agency for security in all modes of
transportation — including pipelines. The agency oversees industry’s identification
and protection of pipelines by developing security standards; implementing measures
to mitigate security risk; building stakeholder relations; and monitoring compliance
with security standards, requirements, and regulation. While the OPS and TSA have
distinct missions, pipeline safety and security are intertwined.
Federal activities in pipeline safety and security are evolving. Although pipeline
impacts on the environment remain a concern of some public interest groups, both
federal government and industry representatives suggest that federal pipeline
programs have been on the right track. As oversight of the federal role in pipeline
safety and security continues, Congress may focus on the effectiveness of state
pipeline damage prevention programs, the promulgation of low-stress pipeline
regulations, federal pipeline safety enforcement, and the relationship between DHS
and the DOT with respect to pipeline security, among other provisions in federal
pipeline safety regulation. In addition to these specific issues, Congress may wish
to assess how the various elements of U.S. pipeline safety and security activity fit
together in the nation’s overall strategy to protect transportation infrastructure.
In troduction ......................................................1
Pipeline Industry Characteristics..................................1
Pipeline Safety Record......................................2
Pipeline Security Risks.....................................3
Office of Pipeline Safety........................................4
Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002.......................5
OPS Pipeline Security Activities..............................6
Transportation Security Administration.............................7
TSA Pipeline Security Plan..................................7
TSA Pipeline Security Activities..............................8
Security Incident Investigations..............................11
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission...........................12
Key Policy Issues.................................................13
Pipeline Damage Prevention....................................13
Low-Stress Pipeline Regulations.................................14
OPS Safety Enforcement.......................................16
Federal Pipeline Security Authority...............................17
Pipeline Security Regulations...................................18
TSA Pipelines Security Resources................................19
Distribution Integrity Management...........................20
Mandatory Pipeline Assessment Intervals......................21
List of Tables
Table 1. TSA Pipeline Security Initiatives...............................9
Pipeline Safety and Security:
Nearly half a million miles of oil and gas transmission pipeline crisscross the2
United States. These pipelines are integral to U.S. energy supply and have vital
links to other critical infrastructure, such as power plants, airports, and military bases.
While an efficient and fundamentally safe means of transport, many pipelines carry
volatile or flammable materials with the potential to cause public injury and
environmental damage. The nation’s pipeline networks are also widespread, running
alternately through remote and densely populated regions; consequently, these
systems are vulnerable to accidents and terrorist attack. The 2006 partial shutdown
of the Prudhoe Bay, Alaska oil field, the largest in the United States, due to pipeline
safety problems demonstrated this vulnerability.
The 109th Congress passed the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2006 (P.L.
federal Office of Pipeline Safety. The 110 Congress passed the Implementing
Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-53), which
President Bush signed on August 3, 2007. Provisions in P.L. 110-53 mandate
pipeline security inspections and potential enforcement (§ 1557) and require federal
plans for critical pipeline security and incident recovery (§ 1558). Congress is
overseeing the implementation of these acts and examining ongoing policy issues
related to the nation’s pipeline network.
Pipeline Industry Characteristics
Roughly 170,000 miles of oil pipeline in the United States carry over 75% of the
nation’s crude oil and around 60% of its refined petroleum products.3 There are
nearly 200 interstate oil pipelines, which account for roughly 80% of total pipeline
mileage and transported volume.4 The U.S. natural gas pipeline network consists of
around 210,000 miles of interstate transmission, 85,000 miles of intrastate
1 Parts of this report were previously published in CRS Report RL31990, Pipeline Security:
An Overview of Federal Activities and Current Policy Issues, by Paul W. Parfomak.
2 Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), “National Transportation Statistics,” September
table_01_10.html]. In this report “oil” includes petroleum and other hazardous liquids such
as gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, and propane, unless otherwise noted.
3 BTS, September- 2008.
4 Richard A Rabinow, “The Liquid Pipeline Industry in the United States: Where It’s Been,
Where It’s Going,” Prepared for the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, April 2004, p. 4.
transmission, and 40,000 miles of field and gathering pipeline, which connect gas
extraction wells to processing facilities. Around 100 systems make up the interstate
network. Another 90 or so systems operate strictly within individual states.5 These
interstate and intrastate gas transmission pipelines feed around 1.1 million miles of
regional lines in some 1,300 local distribution networks.6 Natural gas pipelines also
connect to 113 liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage sites, which augment pipeline gas
supplies during peak demand periods.7
Pipeline Safety Record. Taken as a whole, releases from pipelines cause
few annual fatalities compared to other product transportation modes. Oil pipelines
reported an average of 2.2 deaths per year from 2003 through 2007; gas transmission
pipelines reported an average of 1.2 deaths per year during the same period.8
Accidental pipeline releases result from a variety of causes, including third-party
excavation, corrosion, mechanical failure, control system failure, and operator error.
Natural forces, such as floods and earthquakes, can also damage pipelines. According
to the Department of Transportation (DOT), there were 105 oil pipeline accidents and9
76 gas transmission pipeline accidents in 2007. Although pipeline releases have
caused relatively few fatalities in absolute numbers, a single pipeline accident can be
catastrophic. For example, a 1999 gasoline pipeline explosion in Bellingham,
Washington, killed two children and an 18-year-old man, and caused $45 million in
damage to a city water plant and other property. In 2000, a natural gas pipeline
explosion near Carlsbad, New Mexico, killed 12 campers, including four children.10
In 2006, damaged pipelines on the North Slope of Alaska leaked over 200,000
gallons of crude oil in an environmentally sensitive area. Such accidents have
generated substantial scrutiny of pipeline regulation and increased state and
community activity related to pipeline safety.11
Pipeline Security Risks. Pipelines are vulnerable to vandalism and terrorist
attack with firearms, with explosives, or by other physical means. Some pipelines
may also be vulnerable to “cyber-attacks” on computer control systems or attacks on
5 James Tobin, Changes in U.S. Natural Gas Transportation Infrastructure in 2004, Energy
Information Administration (EIA), June 2005, p. 4.
6 BTS, September 2008.
7 Michelle M. Foss, “Introduction to LNG,” Center for Energy Economics, University of
Texas at Austin, January 2007, p. 5.
8 Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, “Significant Pipeline Incidents,”
Web page, September 28, 2008.
[http://primi s.phmsa.dot.gov/comm/ reports/safety/ SigPSI.html ]
10 National Transportation Safety Board, Pipeline Accident Report PAR-03-01, February
11 See, for example: Janet Zink, “Fueling the Resistance,” St. Petersburg Times, December
16, 2007; W. Loy, “Slope Mayor Questions Leak Detection,” Anchorage Daily News, March
14, 2006; J. Nesmith and R. K. M. Haurwitz, “Pipelines: The Invisible Danger,” Austin
American-Statesman, July 22, 2001.
electricity grids or telecommunications networks.12 Oil and gas pipelines have been
a target of terrorists outside and within the United States. In Colombia, for example,
rebels have bombed the Caño Limón oil pipeline and other pipelines over 950 times
since 1993.13 In 1996, London police foiled a plot by the Irish Republican Army to
bomb gas pipelines and other utilities across the city.14 Nigerian militants have
repeatedly attacked pipelines and related facilities, including the simultaneous
bombing of three oil pipelines in May, 2007.15 A Mexican rebel group similarly
detonated bombs along Mexican oil and natural gas pipelines in July and September,
2007.16 In June, 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice arrested members of a terrorist
group planning to attack jet fuel pipelines and storage tanks at the John F. Kennedy
(JFK) International Airport in New York.17
Since September 11, 2001, federal warnings about Al Qaeda have mentioned
pipelines specifically as potential terror targets in the United States.18 One U.S.
pipeline of particular concern and with a history of terrorist and vandal activity is the
Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), which transports crude oil from Alaska’s
North Slope oil fields to the marine terminal in Valdez. TAPS runs some 800 miles
and delivers nearly 17% of United States domestic oil production.19 In 1999,
Vancouver police arrested a man planning to blow up TAPS for personal profit in oil
futures.20 In 2001, a vandal’s attack on TAPS with a high-powered rifle forced a
two-day shutdown and caused extensive economic and ecological damage.21 In
January 2006, federal authorities acknowledged the discovery of a detailed posting
on a website purportedly linked to Al Qaeda that reportedly encouraged attacks on
12 J.L. Shreeve, “Science & Technology: The Enemy Within,” The Independent,. London,
UK, May 31, 2006, p. 8.
13 Government Accountability Office (GAO), Security Assistance: Efforts to Secure
Colombia’s Caño Limón-Coveñas Oil Pipeline Have Reduced Attacks, but Challenges
Remain, GAO-05-971, September 2005, p. 15; Stratfor Forecasting, Inc.,”Colombia: The
FARC’s Low-Level Pipeline Campaign,” Stratfor Today, June 23, 2008.
[http://www . s t r a t f o r . c o m/ a n a l ys i s / c o l o mb i a _ f arcs_low_level_pipeline_campaign?ip_aut
14 President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, Critical Foundations:
Protecting America’s Infrastructures, Washington, DC, October 1997.
15 K. Houreld, “Militants Say 3 Nigeria Pipelines Bombed,” Associated Press, May 8, 2007.
16 Reed Johnson, “Six Pipelines Blown Up in Mexico,” Los Angeles Times, September 11,
17 U.S. Dept. of Justice, “Four Individuals Charged in Plot to bomb John F. Kennedy
International Airport,” Press release, June 2, 2007.
18 “Already Hard at Work on Security, Pipelines Told of Terrorist Threat,” Inside FERC,
McGraw-Hill Companies, January 3, 2002.
19 Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., Internet page, Anchorage, AK, September 28, 2008.
[ ht t p: / / www.al ye ska-pi pe.com/ a bout .ht ml ] .
20 D. S. Cloud, “A Former Green Beret’s Plot to Make Millions Through Terrorism,” Ottawa
Citizen, December 24, 1999, p. E15.
21 Y. Rosen, “Alaska Critics Take Potshots at Line Security,” Houston Chronicle, February
U.S. pipelines, especially TAPS, using weapons or hidden explosives.22 In
November 2007 a U.S. citizen was convicted of trying to conspire with Al Qaeda to
attack TAPS and a major natural gas pipeline in the eastern United States.23 To date,
there have been no known Al Qaeda attacks on TAPS or other U.S. pipelines, but
operators remain alert.
Office of Pipeline Safety
The Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968 (P.L. 90-481) and the Hazardous
Liquid Pipeline Act of 1979 (P.L. 96-129) are two of the key early acts establishing
the federal role in pipeline safety. Under both statutes, the Transportation Secretary
is given primary authority to regulate key aspects of interstate pipeline safety: design,
construction, operation and maintenance, and spill response planning. Pipeline safety
regulations are covered in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations.24 The DOT
administers pipeline regulations through the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) within
the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).25 The OPS
has approximately 180 full-time equivalent staff, including inspectors, based in
Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Kansas City, Houston, and Denver.26 In addition to its
own staff, the OPS’s enabling legislation allows the agency to delegate authority to
intrastate pipeline safety offices, and allows state offices to act as “agents”
administering interstate pipeline safety programs (excluding enforcement) for those
sections of interstate pipelines within their boundaries.27 Over 400 state pipeline
safety inspectors are available in 2008.
The OPS safety program is funded primarily by user fees assessed on a per-mile
basis on each regulated pipeline operator (49 U.S.C. § 60107). P.L. 109-468
authorizes annual OPS expenditures (§ 18) of $79.0 million in FY2007, $86.2
million in FY2008, $91.5 million in FY2009, and $96.5 million in FY2010. The
President’s FY2009 budget request included $93.3 million for pipeline safety.28
22 W. Loy, “Web Post Urges Jihadists to Attack Alaska Pipeline,” Anchorage Daily News,
January 19, 2006.
23 U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania, “Man Convicted of Attempting
to Provide Material Support t o Al-Qaeda Sentenced to 30 Years’ Imprisonment,” Press
release, November 6, 2007; A. Lubrano and J. Shiffman, “Pa. Man Accused of Terrorist
Plot,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 12, 2006, p. A1.
24 Safety and security of liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities used in gas pipeline
transportation is regulated under CFR Title 49, Part 193.
25 PHMSA succeeds the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA),
reorganized under P.L. 108-246, which was signed by the President on November 30, 2004.
26 U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal
Year 2009: Appendix, February 2008, p. 922.
27 49 U.S.C. 601. States may recover up to 50% of their costs for these programs from the
28 U.S. Office of Management and Budget, February 2008, p. 921.
The OPS uses a variety of strategies to promote compliance with its safety
standards. The agency conducts physical inspections of facilities and construction
projects; conducts programmatic inspections of management systems, procedures,
and processes; investigates safety incidents, and maintains a dialogue with pipeline
operators. The agency clarifies its regulatory expectations through published
protocols and regulatory orders, guidance manuals, and public meetings. The OPS
relies upon a range of enforcement actions, including administrative actions and civil
penalties, to ensure that operators correct safety violations and take measures to
preclude future safety problems. From 2002 through 2007, the OPS initiated over
1,300 enforcement actions against pipeline operators. Civil penalties proposed by the
OPS for safety violations during this period totaled approximately $17.2 million.29
The OPS also conducts accident investigations and systemwide reviews focusing on
high-risk operational or procedural problems and areas of the pipeline near sensitive
environmental areas, high-density populations, or navigable waters.
Since 1997, the OPS has increasingly encouraged industry’s implementation of
“integrity management” programs on pipeline segments near “high consequence”
areas. Integrity management provides for continual evaluation of pipeline condition;
assessment of risks to the pipeline; inspection or testing; data analysis; and followup
repair, as well as preventive or mitigative actions. High-consequence areas include
population centers, commercially navigable waters, and environmentally sensitive
areas, such as drinking water supplies or ecological reserves. The integrity
management approach directs priority resources to locations of highest consequence
rather than applying uniform treatment to the entire pipeline network.30 The OPS
made integrity management programs mandatory for most operators with 500 or
more miles of regulated oil pipeline as of March 31, 2001 (49 C.F.R. § 195).
Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002. On December 12, 2002,
President Bush signed into law the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 (P.L.
pipeline operators, and public education regarding pipeline safety. Among other
provisions, P.L. 107-355 required operators of regulated gas pipelines in high-
consequence areas to conduct risk analysis and implement integrity management
programs similar to those required for oil pipelines.32 The act authorized the DOT
29 Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS), “PHMSA Pipeline Safety Program: Summary of
Enforcement Actions,” Web page, September 29, 2008. [http://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/comm/
30 Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA), Pipeline Safety. Pipeline
Integrity Management in High Consequence Areas (Hazardous Liquid Operators with 500
or More Miles of Pipeline), Federal Register, December 1, 2000, p. 75378.
31 P.L. 107-355 encourages the implementation of state “one-call” excavation notification
programs (§ 2) and allows states to enforce “one-call” program requirements. The act
expands criminal responsibility for pipeline damage to cases where damage was not caused
“knowingly and willfully” (§ 3). The act adds provisions for ending federal-state pipeline
oversight partnerships if states do not comply with federal requirements (§ 4).
32 A 2006 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that the OPS’s gas
to order safety actions for pipelines with potential safety problems (§ 7) and
increased violation penalties (§ 8). The act streamlined the permitting process for
emergency pipeline restoration by establishing an interagency committee, including
the DOT, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management,
the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and other agencies, to ensure
coordinated review and permitting of pipeline repairs (§ 16). The act required DOT
to study ways to limit pipeline safety risks from population encroachment and ways
to preserve environmental resources in pipeline rights-of-way (§ 11). P.L. 107-355
also included provisions for public education, grants for community pipeline safety
studies, “whistle blower” and other employee protection, employee qualification
programs, and mapping data submission.
OPS Pipeline Security Activities. Presidential Decision Directive 63
(PDD-63), issued during the Clinton administration, assigned lead responsibility for33
pipeline security to the DOT. At the time, these responsibilities fell to the OPS,
since the agency was already addressing some elements of pipeline security in its role
as safety regulator. In 2002, the OPS conducted a vulnerability assessment to
identify critical pipeline facilities and worked with industry groups and state pipeline
safety organizations “to assess the industry’s readiness to prepare for, withstand and
respond to a terrorist attack....”34 Together with the Department of Energy and state
pipeline agencies, the OPS promoted the development of consensus standards for
security measures tiered to correspond with the five levels of threat warnings issued35
by the Office of Homeland Security. The OPS also developed protocols for
inspections of critical facilities to ensure that operators implemented appropriate
security practices. To convey emergency information and warnings, the OPS
established a variety of communication links to key staff at the most critical pipeline
facilities throughout the country. The OPS also began identifying near-term
technology to enhance deterrence, detection, response, and recovery, and began36
seeking to advance public and private sector planning for response and recovery.
On September 5, 2002, the OPS circulated formal guidance developed in
cooperation with the pipeline industry associations defining the agency’s security
integrity management program benefitted public safety, although the report recommended
revisions to the OPS’s performance measures. See GAO. Natural Gas Pipeline Safety:
Integrity Management Benefits Public Safety, but Consistency of Performance Measures
Should Be Improved, GAO-06-946, September 8, 2006, pp. 2-3.
33 Presidential Decision Directive 63, Protecting the Nation’s Critical Infrastructures, May
34 Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA), RSPA Pipeline Security
Preparedness, December 2001.
35 Ellen Engleman, Administrator, Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA),
statement before the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, House Energy and
Commerce Committee, March 19, 2002.
36 Ellen Engleman, Administrator, Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA),
statement before the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, House Transportation and
Infrastructure Committee, February 13, 2002.
program recommendations and implementation expectations. This guidance
recommended that operators identify critical facilities, develop security plans
consistent with prior trade association security guidance, implement these plans, and
review them annually.37 While the guidance was voluntary, the OPS expected
compliance and informed operators of its intent to begin reviewing security programs
within 12 months, potentially as part of more comprehensive safety inspections.38
Transportation Security Administration
In November 2001, President Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation
Security Act (P.L. 107-71) establishing the Transportation Security Administration
(TSA) within the DOT. According to TSA, the act placed the DOT’s pipeline
security authority (under PDD-63) within TSA. The act specified for TSA a range
of duties and powers related to general transportation security, such as intelligence
management, threat assessment, mitigation, security measure oversight and
enforcement, among others. On November 25, 2002, President Bush signed the
Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296) creating the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS). Among other provisions, the act transferred to DHS the
Transportation Security Administration from the DOT (§ 403). On December 17,
clarifying executive agency responsibilities for identifying, prioritizing, and
protecting critical infrastructure.39 HSPD-7 maintains DHS as the lead agency for
pipeline security (par. 15), and instructs the DOT to “collaborate in regulating the
transportation of hazardous materials by all modes (including pipelines)” (par. 22h).
The order requires that DHS and other federal agencies collaborate with “appropriate
private sector entities” in sharing information and protecting critical infrastructure
(par. 25). TSA has joined both the Energy Government Coordinating Council and
the Transportation Government Coordinating Council under provisions in HSPD-7.
The missions of the councils are to work with their industry counterparts to
coordinate critical infrastructure protection programs in the energy and transportation
sectors, respectively, and to facilitate the sharing of security information.
TSA Pipeline Security Plan. HSPD-7 also required DHS to develop a
national plan for critical infrastructure and key resources protection (par. 27), which
the agency issued in 2006 as the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP).
The NIPP, in turn, required each critical infrastructure sector to develop a Sector
Specific Plan (SSP) that describes strategies to protect its critical infrastructure,
outlines a coordinated approach to strengthen its security efforts, and determines
appropriate funding for these activities. Executive Order 13416 further required the
transportation sector SSP to prepare annexes for each mode of surface transportation
with the following information:
37 James K. O’Steen, Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA),
Implementation of RSPA Security Guidance, presentation to the National Association of
Regulatory Utility Commissioners, February 25, 2003.
38 Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS), personal communication, June 10, 2003.
39 HSPD-7 supersedes PDD-63 (par. 37).
!identification of existing security guidelines, requirements, and gaps,
!description of how the SSP plan will be implemented for each mode,
!respective roles of government entities and the private sector,
!processes for review of information sharing mechanisms, and
!processes for assessing security guideline compliance and revision.40
In accordance with the above requirements the TSA issued its Transportation
Systems Sector Specific Plan and Pipeline Modal Annex in May, 2007.
TSA Pipeline Security Activities. Pipeline security activities at TSA are
led by the Pipeline Security Division (PSD) within the agency’s Office of
Transportation Sector Network Management.41 According to the agency’s Pipeline
Modal Annex (PMA), TSA has been engaged in a number of specific pipeline
security initiatives since 2003 as summarized in Table 1.
40 Executive Order 13416, “Strengthening Surface Transportation Security,” December 5,
41 These offices were formerly known as the Pipeline Security Program Office and the
Intermodal Security Program Office, respectively.
Table 1. TSA Pipeline Security Initiatives
Init ia t i v e Descript io n P a r t i cipa nt s*
Pipeline Policy andCoordination, development, implementation, andTSA, DHS, DOT,
Planningmonitoring of pipeline security plansDOE
Sector CoordinatingGovernment partners coordinate interagency andTSA, DOE,
Councils and Jointcross-jurisdictional implementation of criticalOther agencies,
Sector Committeeinfrastructure security Industry
Corporate SecurityOn-site reviews of pipeline operator securityTSA, Industry
Pipeline System RiskStatistical tool used for relative risk ranking andTSA, Industry
Toolprioritizing CSR findings
Pipeline Cross-BorderU.S. and Canadian security assessment andTSA, Canada
Vulnerabilityplanning for critical cross-border pipeline
Asse ssme nt
Regional Gas PipelineRegional supply studies for key natural gas marketsTSA, DOE,
Cyber AttackTraining/presentations on Supervisory Control andTSA, GTI
AwarenessData Acquisition (SCADA) system vulnerabilities
Landscape DepictionIncorporates depiction of the pipeline domainTSA
and Analysis Toolwith risk analysis components
International PipelineInternational forum for U.S. and CanadianTSA, Canada,
Security Forumgovernments and pipeline industry officialsOther agencies,
“G8” MultinationalMultinational-sharing of pipeline threat assessmentTSA, DHS,
Security Assessmentmethods, advisory levels, effective practices, andState Dept.,
and Planningvulnerability information; also develops a G8-basedG8 Nations
contingency planning guidance document
Security AwarenessInformational compact discs about pipeline securityTSA
Trainingissues and improvised explosive devices
StakeholderPeriodic information-sharing conference callsTSA, Other
Conference Callsbetween key pipeline security stakeholdersagencies, Industry
Pipeline BlastExplosives tests on various pipe configurations toTSA, DOD,
Mitigation Studiesdetermine resiliency characteristicsOther agencies
Virtual LibraryDevelopment of TSA information-sharing WebTSA
Pipeline Site portal
Source: Transportation Security Administration, Pipeline Modal Annex, June 2007, pp. 10-
*Key: DHS = Dept. Of Homeland Security, DOE = Dept. of Energy, G8 = Group of Eight
(U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia),GTI = Gas
Technology Institute, INGAA = Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, NETL
= National Energy Technology Laboratory, TSA = Transportation Security
In 2003, TSA initiated its Corporate Security Review (CSR) program, wherein
the agency visits the largest pipeline and natural gas distribution operators to review
their security plans and inspect their facilities. (The OPS participated with TSA in
a number of security reviews in 2003, but has not done so since then.) During the
reviews, TSA evaluates whether each company is following the intent of the OPS
security guidance, and seeks to collect the list of assets each company had identified
meeting the criteria established for critical facilities. In 2004, the DOT reported that
the plans reviewed to date (approximately 25) had been “judged responsive to the
OPS guidance.”42 TSA completed 13 CSR reviews in 2007, and plans to complete
another 25 by the end of 2008.43 As of April, 2008, TSA had completed CSR’s for
pipeline throughput.44 According to TSA, virtually all of the companies reviewed
have developed security plans, identified critical assets, and conducted background
checks on new employees. Most have also implemented employee security training
programs and raised local community and law enforcement awareness of pipeline
security as part of their emergency response obligations.45 Nonetheless, the CSR
reviews also have identified inadequacies in some company security programs such
as not updating security plans, lack of management support, poor employee
involvement, inadequate threat intelligence, and employee apathy or error.46
In addition to the initiatives in Table 1, TSA has worked to establish
qualifications for personnel seeking unrestricted access to critical pipeline assets and47
has developed its own inventory of critical pipeline infrastructure. The agency has
also addressed legal issues regarding recovery from terrorist attacks, such as FBI
control of crime scenes and eminent domain in pipeline restoration. In October 2005,
TSA issued an overview of recommended security practices for pipeline operators
“for informational purposes only ... not intended to replace security measures already
implemented by individual companies.”48 The agency released revised guidance on
security best practices at the end of 2006.
42 Department of Transportation (DOT), “Action Taken and Actions Needed to Improve
Pipeline Safety,” CC-2004-061, June 16, 2004, p. 21.
43 U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Detailed Information on the Transportation
Security Administration: Surface Transportation Security Assessment, September 6, 2008.
[http://www.wh itehouse.gov/ OMB/expect more/detail/10003631.2008.html ]
44 Jack Fox, Transportation Security Administration, “TSA Pipeline Security Programs and
Activities Update,” Presentation to the American Petroleum Institute Pipeline Conference,
Orlando, FL, April 8, 2008, p. 7.
45 Mike Gillenwater, TSA, “Pipeline Security Overview,” Presented to the Alabama Public
Service Commission Gas Pipeline Safety Seminar, Montgomery, AL, December 11, 2007.
46 Mike Gillenwater, December 11, 2007.
47 TSA, TSA Multi-Modal Criticality Evaluation Tool, TSA Threat Assessment and Risk
Management Program, slide presentation, April 15, 2003.
48 TSA, Intermodal Security Program Office, Pipeline Security Best Practices, October 19,
The mission of TSA’s Pipeline Security Division currently includes developing
security standards; implementing measures to mitigate security risk; building and
maintaining stakeholder relations, coordination, education and outreach; and
monitoring compliance with security standards, requirements, and regulations. The
President’s FY2009 budget request for DHS did not include a separate line item for
TSA’s pipeline security activities. The budget request did include a $37 million line
item for “Surface Transportation Security,” which encompasses security activities in
non-aviation transportation modes, including pipelines.49 The PSD has traditionally
received from the agency’s general operational budget an allocation for routine
operations such as regulation development, travel, and outreach. According to the
PSD, the budget funds 11 full-time equivalent staff within the office. These staff will
conduct pipeline security inspections, maintain TSA’s asset database, support TSA’s
multi-modal risk models, develop new security standards, and issue regulations, as
required. In addition, the PSD has access to approximately 100 surface transportation
inspectors within TSA who could potentially be trained to perform pipeline
inspections in the future should the need arise.50
In January, 2007 testimony before Congress, the TSA Administrator stated that
the agency intended to conduct a pipeline infrastructure study to identify the “highest
risk” pipeline assets, building upon such a list developed through the CSR program.
He also stated that the agency would use its ongoing security review process to
determine the future implementation of baseline risk standards against which to set
measurable pipeline risk reduction targets.51 Provisions in the Implementing
Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-53) require TSA,
in consultation with the OPS, to develop a plan for the federal government to provide
increased security support to the “most critical” pipelines at high or severe security
alert levels and when there is specific security threat information relating to such
pipeline infrastructure (§ 1558(a)(1)). The act also requires a recovery protocol plan
in the event of an incident affecting the interstate and intrastate pipeline system (§
Security Incident Investigations. In addition to the above pipeline security
initiatives, the TSA Pipeline Security Division has performed a limited number of
vulnerability assessments and supported investigations for specific companies and52
assets where intelligence information has suggested potential terrorist activity. The
PSD, along with the OPS, was involved in the investigation of an August, 2006
49 U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal
Year 2009: Appendix, February 2008, p.486.
50 Transportation Security Administration, Intermodal Security Program Office, personal
communication, February 27, 2008.
51 Hawley, Kip, Asst. Secretary, Dept. of Homeland Security, Testimony before the Senate
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on Federal Efforts for Rail
and Surface Transportation Security, January 18, 2007.
52 Transportation Security Administration, Intermodal Security Program Office, personal
communication, August 30, 2006.
security breach at an LNG peak-shaving plant in Lynn, MA.53 Although not a
terrorist incident, the security breach involved the penetration of intruders through
several security barriers and alert systems, permitting them to access the main LNG
storage tank at the facility. The PSD also became aware of the JFK terrorist plot in
its early stages and supported the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s associated
investigation. The PSD engaged the private sector in helping to assess potential
targets and determine potential consequences. The PSD worked with the pipeline
company to keep it informed about the plot, discuss its security practices, and review
its emergency response plans.54
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
One area related to pipeline safety and security not under either the OPS’s or
TSA’s primary jurisdiction is the siting approval of new gas pipelines, which is the
responsibility of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Companies
building interstate gas pipelines must first obtain from FERC certificates of public
convenience and necessity. (FERC does not oversee oil pipeline construction.)
FERC must also approve the abandonment of gas facility use and services. These
approvals may include safety and security provisions with respect to pipeline routing,
safety standards and other factors.55 As a practical matter, however, FERC has
traditionally left these considerations to the OPS.56
On September 14, 2001, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
notified FERC regulated companies that it would “approve applications proposing
the recovery of prudently incurred costs necessary to further safeguard the nation’s
energy systems and infrastructure” in response to the terror attacks of 9/11. FERC
also committed to “expedite the processing on a priority basis of any application that
would specifically recover such costs from wholesale customers.” Companies could
propose a surcharge over currently existing rates or some other cost recovery
method.57 In FY2005, the commission processed security cost recovery requests
from 14 oil pipelines and 3 natural gas pipelines.58 The FERC’s FY2006 annual
report states that “the Commission continues to give the highest priority to deciding
any requests made for the recovery of extraordinary expenditures to safeguard the
reliability and security of the Nation’s energy transportation systems and energy
53 Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), “Pipeline Safety:
Lessons Learned From a Security Breach at a Liquefied Natural Gas Facility,” Docket No.
PHMSA-04-19856, Federal Register, Vol. 71, No. 249, December 28, 2006, p. 78269; TSA,
Intermodal Security Program Office, personal communication, August 30, 2006.
54 TSA, July 6, 2007.
55 U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. 18 C.F.R. 157.
56 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), personal communication, May 22, 2003.
57 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), News release, R-01-38, Washington,
DC, September 14, 2001.
58 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Annual Report FY2005, 2006, p. 19. These are the most recent specific figures reported.
supply infrastructure.”59 The FY2007 annual report does not mention pipeline
In February 2003, FERC handed down a new rule (RM02-4-000) to protect
critical energy infrastructure information (CEII). The rule defines CEII as information
that “must relate to critical infrastructure, be potentially useful to terrorists, and be
exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.” According to the
rule, critical infrastructure is “existing and proposed systems and assets, whether
physical or virtual, the incapacity or destruction of which would negatively affect
security, economic security, public health or safety, or any combination of those
matters.” CEII excludes “information that identifies the location of infrastructure.”
The rule also establishes procedures for the public to request and obtain such critical
information, and applies both to proposed and existing infrastructure.60
On May 14, 2003, FERC handed down new rules (RM03-4) facilitating the
restoration of pipelines after a terrorist attack. The rules allow owners of a damaged
pipeline to use blanket certificate authority to immediately start rebuilding, regardless
of project cost, even outside existing rights-of-way. Pipeline owners would still need
to notify landowners and comply with environmental laws. Prior rules limited
blanket authority to $17.5 million projects and 45-day advance notice.61
Key Policy Issues
The 110th Congress is overseeing the implementation of the Pipeline Safety
Improvement Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-468) and pipeline security provisions in the
Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-53).
In its ongoing oversight of federal pipeline safety and security activities, Congress
may examine a number of key issues which have drawn particular attention in policy
debate. P.L. 109-468 and P.L. 110-53 contain additional provisions not discussed in
Pipeline Damage Prevention
According to OPS statistics, third-party excavation damage is the single greatest
cause of accidents among natural gas distribution pipelines.62 It is also a leading
cause of damage among natural gas transmission and hazardous liquids pipelines.
Some policy makers have proposed the establishment of federal civil penalties for
violations of state “one-call” notification programs to prevent excavation damage to
59 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Annual Report FY2006, 2007, p. 23.
60 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), News release, R-03-08, Washington,
DC. February 20, 2003.
61 Schmollinger, Christian, “FERC OKs Emergency Reconstruction,” Natural Gas Week,
May 13, 2003.
62 Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS), “Distribution Pipeline Incident Summary by Cause:
underground pipelines. While supporting stronger enforcement of excavation
damage prevention programs, other stakeholders have argued that such enforcement
is best performed by state regulators responsible for administering one-call programs
rather than by the federal government. They favor an approach which encourages
state enforcement, unless the federal government determines that a state’s
enforcement efforts are ineffective.63 Consistent with this approach, P.L. 109-468
prohibits federal enforcement in states already imposing such penalties (§ 2). The
act also authorizes grants to states (and certain municipalities) for improving damage
prevention programs if the states have been certified (under 49 U.S.C. § 60105-
60106) or can demonstrate that they are establishing an “effective” program, as
subsequently defined (§ 2).
Low-Stress Pipeline Regulations
Pipelines operated at less than 20% of the specified minimum strength of the
material from which they are constructed are classified as “low-stress” pipelines
under 49 C.F.R. § 195.2. According to the OPS, federal pipeline safety regulations
originally did not apply to low-stress pipelines because they operated at low
pressures, were not prone to accidents, and were thought to pose little risk to the
public. In 1994, however, the OPS extended its hazardous liquid pipeline regulations
under 49 C.F.R. § 195 to include low-stress pipelines that 1) transport highly volatile
liquids, 2) are not located in rural areas, 3) are located offshore, or 4) are located in
waterways used for commercial navigation (§ 195.1(b)(3)).
The regulation of low-stress pipeline regulations has come under greater
Congressional scrutiny since March 2006, after a spill from a BP pipeline oil pipeline
led to the partial shutdown of the Prudhoe Bay area oil field on the North Slope of
Alaska. In its March 15, 2006, Corrective Action Order (CAO) issued to BP, the
OPS found that BP’s pipelines met the definition of a “hazardous pipeline facility”
under 49 U.S.C. § 60112(a), which grants general authority under the statute, but that
specific federal pipeline safety regulations under 49 C.F.R. § 195 did not apply at that
time because BP’s pipelines were classified as “low-stress” and fell under the
exception in 49 C.F.R. § 195.1(b)(3).64 In August, 2006, BP announced additional
disruption of North Slope oil supplies to conduct major pipeline repairs “following
the discovery of unexpectedly severe corrosion and a small spill from a Prudhoe Bay
oil transit line.”65 BP subsequently admitted to flaws in its maintenance models and,
63 Felt, T., President and CEO, Explorer Pipeline, Statement before the House Committee
on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality hearing on
Reauthorization of the Pipeline Safety Act, July 27, 2006.
64 Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Admin. (PHMSA), Corrective Action Order in
the Matter of BP Exploration (Alaska), Inc., Respondent, CPF No. 5-2006-5015H, March
65 BP Exploration Alaska, Inc., “BP to Shutdown Prudhoe Bay Oil Field,” Press release,
August 6, 2006.
in retrospect, the inadequacy of its overall maintenance program for its North Slope
On September 6, 2006, the OPS published in the Federal Register proposed
rules for risk-based regulation of hazardous liquid low-stress pipelines located in
“unusually sensitive areas” and exempted from its regulations under 49 C.F.R. §
195.67 The OPS defines an unusually sensitive area (USA) as “a drinking water or
ecological resource area that is unusually sensitive to environmental damage from a
hazardous liquid pipeline release” (49 C.F.R. § 195.6).68 Although USAs would be
identified on a site-by-site basis, the OPS has indicated that the North Slope is a
US A. 69
P.L. 109-648 required the OPS to promulgate final regulations for low-stress
hazardous liquids pipelines by December 31, 2007 (§ 4). Although the OPS initially
expected to finalize regulations in USAs by the end of 2006, the agency required
more time to incorporate additional provisions under P.L. 109-648. The agency
announced modifications to its 2006 proposed rules for low-stress hazardous liquid
pipelines on May 18, 2007.70 On September 7, 2007, the OPS requested approval
from the Office of Management and Budget to collect additional data needed to
develop its low-stress pipelines regulations.71 The agency issued the final regulations
effective July 3, 2008.72 In reviewing the OPS’s final criteria for low-stress pipeline
regulation, Congress may consider the balance between the potential safety benefits
and the potential costs of stricter safety programs in light of BP’s pipeline problems
and potential problems among similar pipeline systems elsewhere in the United
66 Marshall, S., President, BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., Comments to the Joint Alaska
Senate and House Resources Committee, August 18, 2006.
67 Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), “Pipeline Safety:
Protecting Unusually Sensitive Areas From Rural Onshore Hazardous Liquid Gathering
Lines and Low-Stress Lines,” Federal Register, Vol. 71, No. 172, September 6, 2006, pp.
68 49 C.F.R. § 195.6 further define “drinking water” or “ecological resource” areas.
69 Dept. of Transportation (DOT), “U.S. Department of Transportation Proposes New Safety
Requirements for Rural Low-Stress and Gathering Pipelines in Unusually Sensitive Areas,”
Press release, PHMSA 8-06, August 31, 2006.
70 Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), “Pipeline Safety:
Protecting Unusually Sensitive Areas From Rural Low-Stress Hazardous Liquid Pipelines,”
Federal Register, Vol. 72, No. 96, May 18, 2007, pp. 28008-28016.
71 Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), “Request for Public
Comment and Office of Management and Budget Approval for a New Information
Collection,” Federal Register, Vol. 72, No. 173, September 7, 2007, pp. 51489-51490.
72 Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), “Protecting
Unusually Sensitive Areas From Rural Onshore Hazardous Liquid Gathering Lines and
Low-Stress Lines: Final Rule,” PHMSA — RSPA — 2003 — 15864, Federal Register, Vol.
OPS Safety Enforcement
The adequacy of the OPS’s enforcement strategy has been an ongoing concern
of Congress, particularly after the fatal pipeline accidents in Washington and New
Mexico. A report from the General Accounting Office in 2000 called into question
fundamental changes in OPS’s enforcement strategy at the time, such as sharply
reducing the use of fines to enforce compliance with pipeline safety regulations.73
Provisions in the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-355) put added
scrutiny on the effectiveness of the OPS’s enforcement strategy and assessment of
civil penalties (§ 8). A 2004 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report
reexamining OPS enforcement stated that the agency had made a number of changes
in its enforcement strategy with the potential to improve pipeline safety. The report
concluded, however, that the effectiveness of the strategy could not yet be determined
because OPS’s program had not incorporated “clear program goals, a well-defined
strategy for achieving those goals, and performance measures linked to the program
goals.”74 In March 2006 testimony before Congress, the GAO reported that the OPS
had adopted measures that appeared to be responsive to the agency’s earlier concerns,
although the GAO had not reviewed the strategy or its implementation in depth.75
In April 2006, PHMSA testified before Congress that the OPS had
institutionalized a “tough-but-fair” approach to enforcement, “imposing and
collecting larger penalties, while guiding pipeline operators to enhance higher
performance.”76 According to the agency, $4 million in proposed civil penalties in
2005 was three times greater than penalties proposed in 2003, the first year higher
penalties could be imposed under P.L. 107-355 (§ 8(a)).77 Proposed penalties totaled
$3 million in 2006, and $4 million in 2007.78
Notwithstanding the agency’s efforts to change its pipeline safety enforcement
strategy, some analysts have held that the OPS’s enforcement actions have not been
sufficiently transparent to the public, other government agencies, or industry.79 P.L.
73 General Accounting Office (GAO), Pipeline Safety: The Office of Pipeline Safety Is
Changing How It Oversees the Pipeline Industry, GAO/RCED-00-128, May 2000, p. 22.
74 Government Accountability Office (GAO), Pipeline Safety: Management of the Office of
Pipeline Safety’s Enforcement Program Needs Further Strengthening, GAO-04-801, p. 3.
75 Siggerud, K. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Testimony before the House
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways, Transit and
Pipelines hearing on Pipeline Safety, GAO-06-474T, March 16, 2006, p. 11.
76 Gerard, S.L., Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Admin.(PHMSA), Testimony before the
House Energy and Commerce Committee, Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee hearing
on Pipeline Safety, Serial No. 109-84, April 27, 2006, p. 14.
78 Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Admin. (PHMSA), “Summary of Enforcement
Actions,” Web page, February 1, 2008. [http://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/comm/reports/enforce/
79 Epstein, L.N. July 27, 2006.
including violation and penalty information for each action, and provide a
mechanism for pipeline operators to make response information available to the
public (§ 6). To meet these requirements, the OPS has established an Internet portal
with pipeline safety enforcement information.80
Federal Pipeline Security Authority
Congress has repeatedly raised questions about the appropriate division of
pipeline security authority between the OPS and TSA.81 Both the OPS and TSA have
played important roles in the federal pipeline security program, with TSA the
designated lead agency since 2002. In 2004, the DOT and DHS entered into a
memorandum of understanding (MOU) concerning their respective security roles in
all modes of transportation. The MOU notes that DHS has the primary responsibility
for transportation security with support from the DOT, and establishes a general
framework for cooperation and coordination. The MOU states that “specific tasks
and areas of responsibility that are appropriate for cooperation will be documented
in annexes ... individually approved and signed by appropriate representatives of
DHS and DOT.”82 On August 9, 2006, the departments signed an annex “to delineate
clear lines of authority and responsibility and promote communications, efficiency,
and nonduplication of effort through cooperation and collaboration between the
parties in the area of transportation security.”83
In January, 2007, the PHMSA Administrator testified before Congress that the
agency had established a joint working group with TSA “to improve interagency
coordination on transportation security and safety matters, and to develop and
advance plans for improving transportation security,” presumably including pipeline
security.84 According to TSA, the working group has developed a multi-year action
plan specifically delineating roles, responsibilities, resources and actions to execute
11 program elements: identification of critical infrastructure/key resources and risk
assessments; strategic planning; developing regulations and guidelines; conducting
inspections and enforcement; providing technical support; sharing information during
80 Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS), “PHMSA Pipeline Safety Program: Enforcement,” Web
page, May 15, 2007. [http://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/comm/reports/enforce/Enforcement.html]
81 For example, see Hon. William J. Pascrell, Jr., statement at the House Committee on
Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways, Transit and Pipelines,
hearing on Pipeline Safety, March 16, 2006.
82 Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) and Dept. of Transportation (DOT), Memorandum of
Understanding Between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of
Transportation on Roles and Responsibilities, September 28, 2004, p. 4.
83 Transportation Security Admin. and Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Admin.,
“Transportation Security Administration and Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety
Administration Cooperation on Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Transportation Security,”
August 9, 2006. [http://www.tsa.gov/assets/pdf/tsa-phmsa_annex_to_dhs-dot_mou.pdf]
84 Barrett, T.J., Administrator, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
(PHMSA), Testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and
Transportation hearing on Federal Efforts for Rail and Surface Transportation Security,
January 18, 2007.
emergencies; communications; stakeholder relations; research and development;
legislative matters; and budgeting.85
P.L. 109-468 required the DOT Inspector General (IG) to assess the pipeline
security actions taken by the DOT in implementing its 2004 MOU with the DHS (§
23). The Inspector General published this assessment in May 2008. The IG report
PHMSA and TSA have taken initial steps toward formulating an action plan to
implement the provisions of the pipeline security annex.... However, further
actions need to be taken with a sense of urgency because the current situation is86
far from an “end state” for enhancing the security of the Nation’s pipelines.
The report recommended that PHMSA (OPS) and TSA finalize and execute their
security annex action plan, clarify their respective roles specifically in LNG facility
security, and jointly develop a pipeline security strategy that maximizes the87
effectiveness of their respective capabilities and efforts. It remains to be
determined whether the subsequent activities put in place between the OPS and TSA
based on the provisions in their MOU annex will be implemented effectively given
the two agencies’ existing structures and obligations.
Pipeline Security Regulations
As noted earlier in this report, federal pipeline security activities to date have
relied upon voluntary industry compliance with OPS security guidance and TSA
security best practices. By initiating this voluntary approach, the OPS sought to
speed adoption of security measures by industry and avoid the publication of
sensitive security information (e.g., critical asset lists) that would normally be
required in public rulemaking.88 Provisions in P.L. 109-468 require the DOT
Inspector General to “address the adequacy of security standards for gas and oil
pipelines” (§ 23(b)(4)). P.L. 110-53 similarly directs TSA to promulgate pipeline
security regulations and carry out necessary inspection and enforcement — if the
agency determines that regulations are appropriate (§ 1557(d)). Addressing this issue
the 2008 IG report states that
TSA’s current security guidance is not mandatory and remains unenforceable
unless a regulation is issued to require industry compliance.... PHMSA and TSA
85 TSA, Pipeline Security Division, personal communication, July 6, 2007.
86 U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, Actions Needed to Enhance
Pipeline Security, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Report No.
AV-2008-053, May 21, 2008, p. 3.
87 Ibid. pp. 5-6.
88 GAO, Pipeline Security and Safety: Improved Workforce Planning and Communication
Needed, GAO-02-785, August 2002, p. 22.
will need to conduct covert tests of pipeline systems’ vulnerabilities to assess the89
current guidance as well as the operators’ compliance.
Although TSA’s FY2005 budget justification stated that the agency would
“issue regulations where appropriate to improve the security of the [non-aviation90
transportation] modes,” the agency has not done so for pipelines. TSA believes that
the pipeline industry has taken the security guidance seriously and has done a “good91
job” to date. The pipelines industry has expressed concern that new security
regulations and related requirements may be “redundant” and “may not be necessary92
to increase pipeline security.” The PHMSA Administrator in 2007 testified that
enhancing security “does not necessarily mean that we must impose regulatory93
requirements.” More recently, TSA officials have questioned the IG assertions
regarding pipeline security regulations, particularly the IG’s call for covert testing of
pipeline operator security measures. They argue that TSA is complying with the
letter of P.L. 110-53 and that its pipeline operator security reviews are more than94
paper reviews. In its oversight of potential pipeline security regulations, Congress
may evaluate the effectiveness of the current voluntary pipeline security standards
based on findings from the TSA’s CSR reviews and future DOT Inspector General
P.L. 110-53 also requires TSA, in consultation with the OPS, to establish within
one year of enactment a program for reviewing the adoption by pipeline operators of
the 2002 OPS security guidance, including the review of security plans and critical
facility inspections “of the 100 most critical pipeline operators” (§ 1557 (b)).
According to TSA, the agency’s existing CSR program fulfills much of this
TSA Pipelines Security Resources
Congress has long been critical of TSA’s funding of non-aviation security
activities, including pipeline activities. For example, as one Member remarked in
89 U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, May 21, 2008, p. 6.
90 Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Transportation Security Administration Fiscal
Year 2005 Congressional Budget Justification, Washington, DC, February 2, 2004, p. 20.
91 TSA, February 27, 2008.
92 American Gas Association (AGA), American Petroleum Institute (API), Association of
Oil Pipelines (AOPL), and American Public Gas Association (APGA), joint letter to
members of the Senate Commerce Committee providing views on S. 1052, August 22, 2005.
93 Barrett, T.J. January 18, 2007.
94 Sammon, John, Transportation Security Administration, Testimony before the House
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Railroad, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials
Subcommittee hearing on Implementation of the Pipeline Inspection, Protection,
Enforcement, and Safety Act of 2006, June 24, 2008.
attention. There is simply not enough being done to address ... pipeline security.”95
At its current staffing level, TSA’s Pipelines Security Division has limited field
presence for inspections and possible enforcement of future regulations. TSA’s plan
to focus security inspections on the largest pipeline and distribution system operators
seeks to make the best use of limited resources. The concern is that TSA currently
lacks sufficient resources for rigorous security plan verification and a credible threat
of enforcement, so operator compliance with security guidance may be inadequate,
leaving the pipeline network as a whole less secure than it might be with more
universal inspection and enforcement coverage. P.L. 110-53 specifically authorizes
funding of $2 million annually through FY2010 for TSA’s pipeline security
inspections and enforcement program (§ 1557(e)). It is an open question whether $2
million annually would be sufficient to enable TSA to meet congressional
expectations for federal pipeline security activities.
In addition to the issues mentioned above, Congress may consider several
issues related to proposed legislation or otherwise raised by pipeline stakeholders.
Distribution Integrity Management. As noted earlier in this report, the
OPS made integrity management programs mandatory for oil transmission pipelines
in 2001 and for gas transmission pipelines in 2003. Congress and other stakeholders
have since sought to extend these regulations to natural gas distribution pipelines,
such as those operated by regional natural gas utilities. Because distribution
pipelines are designed and operate differently from transmission lines, the OPS has
been developing approaches to structuring unique regulations for distribution
systems. Natural gas distribution companies have sought flexible, risk-based options96
in any future integrity management regulations directed at distribution systems. P.L.
109-468 mandates the promulgation by OPS of minimum standards for integrity
management programs for distribution pipelines by December 31, 2007 (§ 9). The
agency issued proposed standards for public comment on June 25, 2008.97 PHMSA
officials reportedly have indicated that they seek to issue final regulations in
December 2008.98 As the OPS’s study of distribution integrity management
measures continues, Congress may act to ensure that any resulting regulations
95 Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, opening statement before the Senate Committee on Commerce,
Science and Transportation, hearing on the President’s FY2006 Budget Request for the
Transportation Security Administration (TSA), February 15, 2005.
96 E. F. Bender, Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, testimony before the House
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways, Transit and
Pipelines, hearing on Pipeline Safety, March 16, 2006, p. 10.
97 Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), “Pipeline Safety:
Integrity Management Program for Gas Distribution Pipelines,” PHMSA-RSPA-2004-
98 American Gas Association (AGA), “Summary of Discussions at the AGA Public
Meeting,” Chicago, IL, August 13, 2008, p. 2. [http://www.aga.org/NR/rdonlyres/
FEA58F64-0FB7-48AC-8EB9-88DCC2E9C57F/0/0808DIM PWK SHOPNOT ES.PDF]
balance the potential benefits of improved pipeline safety with the potential costs to
distribution pipeline operators.
Mandatory Pipeline Assessment Intervals. The Pipeline Safety
Improvement Act of 2002 requires that natural gas pipelines operators subject to the
act perform integrity management reassessments at least every seven years after an
initial baseline assessment (§ 14a). Some pipeline operators believe that this
reassessment interval may be too prescriptive and may not be appropriate for all
pipelines. Operators argue that assessing pipelines too frequently is costly and
inefficient, diverting limited safety resources from other uses with greater pipeline99
safety benefits. Based on assessments conducted through 2005, “and the generally
safe condition of gas transmission pipelines,” the GAO concluded in 2006 that the100
seven year reassessment interval “appears to be conservative.” The GAO
recommended that Congress permit pipeline operators to reassess gas transmission
pipelines at intervals based on risk factors, technical data, and engineering analyses.
The agency believed such a revision would allow the OPS more flexibility to
establish longer or shorter reassessment intervals as warranted by pipeline
conditions.101 According to OPS testimony in June 2008, the Secretary of
Transportation has corresponded with House Energy and Commerce committee
regarding the agency’s plans for exempting pipeline operators from the seven year102
interval requirement, but this correspondence has not been released publicly.
Both government and industry have taken numerous steps to improve pipeline
safety and security since 2001. Federal activities in these areas are evolving and
agency responsibilities are still being sorted out. Although pipeline impacts on the
environment remain a concern of some public interest groups, both federal
government and industry representatives suggest that federal pipeline programs have
been on the right track.
As oversight of the federal role in pipeline safety and security continues,
questions may be raised concerning the effectiveness of state pipeline damage
prevention programs, the promulgation of low-stress pipeline regulations, federal
99 J. L. Mohn, Panhandle Energy, testimony before the House Committee on Transportation
and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways, Transit and Pipelines, hearing on pipeline
Safety, March 16, 2006, p. 9.
100 Government Accountability Office (GAO), Natural Gas Pipeline Safety: Risk-Based
Standards Should Allow Operators to Better Tailor Reassessments to Pipeline Threats,
GAO-06-945, September 8, 2006. p. 3.
101 Ibid. p. 6.
102 Gerard, Stacy, Asst. Administrator, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety
Administration (PHMSA), Testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee, Railroad, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee hearing on
Implementation of the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement, and Safety Act of 2006,
June 24, 2008.
pipeline safety enforcement, the relationship between DHS and the DOT with respect
to pipeline security, and particular provisions in federal pipeline safety regulation.
In addition to these specific issues, Congress may wish to assess how the various
elements of U.S. pipeline safety and security activity fit together in the nation’s
overall strategy to protect transportation infrastructure. For example, diverting
pipeline resources away from safety to enhance security might further reduce terror
risk, but not overall pipeline risk, if safety programs become less effective as a result.
Pipeline safety and security necessarily involve many groups: federal agencies, oil
and gas pipeline associations, large and small pipeline operators, and local
communities. Reviewing how these groups work together to achieve common goals
could be an oversight challenge for Congress.