Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Operators' Integrity Management Programs Need More Rigorous PHMSA Oversight
On June 18, 2012, we issued a report on the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) oversight of hazardous liquid pipeline operators’ integrity management (IM) programs. These programs include plans, processes, and procedures aimed at reducing the likelihood and severity of pipeline accidents in High Consequence Areas. PHMSA initiated an inspection program to oversee operators’ implementation of their IM programs in 2002. Since then, the program has accomplished much, but still faces challenges that impact the Agency’s oversight of operators’ IM programs. These challenges include managing a growing backlog of inspections, identifying IM weaknesses through field inspections and onsite accident investigations, and transitioning to a new risk-based inspection program. In addition, PHMSA’s oversight of non-line pipe facilities (such as valves, pump and meter stations, and storage tanks) is limited by less rigorous IM requirements, despite recent technological advances that would allow more rigorous oversight of these facilities. Finally, although PHMSA has established a corrective action plan to address long-standing data management deficiencies, the Agency has not yet resolved key deficiencies or established meaningful analysis capabilities to improve its oversight. We made nine recommendations to improve PHMSA’s oversight; PHMSA concurred with seven and partially concurred with two. However, PHMSA’s responses did not fully meet the intent of six of our recommendations, and we are requesting additional information for these recommendations.