Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

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The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is a United States Department of Transportation agency created in 2004, responsible for developing and enforcing regulations for the safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of the US' 2.6 million mile pipeline transportation. The administration is also responsible for the nearly 1 million daily shipments of hazardous materials by land, sea, and air. The agency also oversees the nation's pipeline infrastructure which accounts for 64 percent of the energy commodities consumed in the United States.[1] Made up of the Office of Pipeline Safety and the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety, PHMSA's main mission is to protect the people and the environment from the inherent risks associations with the transportation of hazardous materials, whether it be by pipeline or other modes of transport.

PHMSA was created within the U.S. DOT under the Norman Y. Mineta Research and Special Programs Improvement Act of 2004,[2] which former United States President George W. Bush signed into law on November 30, 2004.

Cynthia L. Quarterman, an attorney and former government official, became the third Administrator in November 2009.[3] She resigned in October 2014.

Regulatory base[edit]

The PMHSA enforces the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968(P.L. 90-481), which was enacted in response to the Richmond, Indiana explosion, as well as the Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Act of 1979 (P.L. 96-129), the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002, the Pipeline, Inspection, Protection, Safety and Enforcement Act (PIPES) Act of 2006, the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 (P.L. 112), regulations (49 CFR Parts 190-199) and other statutes.


Prior to 2005 the U.S. Department of Transportation had no focused research organization and no separately operating administration for pipeline safety and hazardous materials transportation safety. The purpose of the Norman Y. Mineta Research and Special Programs Improvement Act of 2004 was to provide these, with an opportunity to establish model practices in the area of government budget and information practices in support of the then president Bush's Management Agenda initiatives.[citation needed]

Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (OHMS)[edit]

OHMS is the federal safety authority for the transportation of hazardous materials by air, rail, highway, and water, with the exception of bulk transportation of hazmat by vessel. OHMS promulgates a national safety program to minimize the risks to life and property inherent in commercial transportation of hazardous materials.[4]

The OHMS program consists of:

  • Evaluating safety risks
  • Developing and enforcing standards for transporting hazardous materials
  • Educating shippers and carriers
  • Investigating hazmat incidents and failures
  • Conducting research
  • Providing grants to improve emergency response to incidents

The OHMS website includes OHM guidance documents, hazmat carriers' special permits and approvals information, reports and incidents summaries, penalty action reports, registration information and forms, the Emergency Response Guidebook for First Responders, Freedom of Information Act requests, and the Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness (HMEP) grants program.

Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS)[edit]

OPS is the federal safety authority for the 2.3 million miles of the Natural gas pipeline system in the United States and its hazardous liquid pipelines. OPS's mission is to ensure the safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of the nation's pipeline transportation system.[5] About 80 percent of the funds states spend on pipeline safety comes from PHMSA, as of May 2014.[6]

Several agencies collaborate on the 'federal pipeline safety program', authorized through the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015 such as the Transportation Security Administration,the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.[7]

The Pipeline Risk Management Information System (PRIMIS) consists of integrity management programs originally created for transmission pipelines and has led to a reduced amount of pipeline accidents.[8]

  • 2001 Liquid Integrity Management Program came into law. (LIMP)
  • 2003 Transmission Integrity Management Program came into law (TIMP)
  • 2008 Distribution Integrity Management Program (DIMP)

The 'Accountable Pipeline Safety and Partnership Act of 1996' requires that OPS adopt rules requiring interstate gas pipeline operators to provide maps of their facilities to the governing body of each municipality in which the pipeline is located. The National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) was removed for a number of months from public use after September 11, due to security concerns. In 2012 it returned with restriction of use. National Pipeline Maps can still be bought from PennWell Corporation.[9]

As of 2014, OPS and PMHSA respectively, have not set minimum qualifications for state inspectors, who lead inspection teams. In one state, for example, an inspector with less than one year's experience was allowed to lead inspections.[10]

Pipeline safety record[edit]

Regulatory failures[edit]

The 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion of a Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) gasline in San Bruno, California, a suburb south of San Francisco, killed eight people, injured 58 and destroyed much of a subdivision. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board found weak state and federal oversight.[11] The long term costs for pipeline inspection and safety upgrades will be borne at 55% by electricity rate payers per California Public Utilities Commission judgement[12] On 1 April 2014 PG&E was indicted in U.S. District Court, San Francisco, California, for multiple violations of the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968 relating to its record keeping and pipeline "integrity management" practices.[13]

In 2011 the PHMSA came under criticism for not releasing a Canadian company’s plans for managing oil spills and estimating a worst-case scenario in the event its pipeline burst in the US.[14] Then Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who oversaw the pipeline agency, acknowledged weaknesses in the program and asked Congress to pass legislation that would increase penalties for negligent operators and authorize the hiring of additional inspectors.[15] Federal records showed that although the pipeline industry reported 25 percent fewer significant incidents from 2001 through 2010 than in the prior decade, the amount of hazardous liquids being spilled remained substantial. There were more than 100 significant spills each year, a trend that dates back more than 20 years. The percentage of dangerous liquids recovered by pipeline operators after a spill dropped considerably.[15]

A report by the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Transportation published in May 2014[10] found the PHMSA did not ensure "that key state inspectors are properly trained, inspections are being conducted frequently enough and inspections target the most risky pipelines".[6]


At the end of FY2012, PHMSA employed 203 total staff, including 135 inspection and enforcement staff.[7] Since 2009, Cynthia L. Quarterman has been the Administrator.

The PMHSA has a 'senior leadership team' of eight people with the following positions: a Deputy Administrator, a Chief Safety Officer, a Chief Counsel, two Directors and three Associate Administrators. The current team consists of [16]

Name Position sworn in Reference
Timothy P. Butters Deputy Administrator
Stephen L. Domotor Assistant Administrator and Chief Safety Officer
Vanessa Sutherland Chief Counsel
Jeannie Layson Director of Governmental, International, and Public Affairs January 3, 2012 [17]
Rosanne Goodwill Director of Civil Rights September 2009 [18]
Magdy El-Sibaie Ph.D. Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety September 2009 [18]
Jeffrey D. Wiese Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety August 2006 [19]
Scott Poyer Associate Administrator for Administration/Chief Financial Officer

Past leadership during both terms of President George W. Bush's presidency includes

  • Brigham McCown, first acting Administrator from July 1, 2005 until 2006
  • Thomas J. Barrett, first permanent Administrator from March 31, 2006 until 2007
  • Stacey Gerard, first Assistant Administrator/Chief Safety Officer, acting from Feb. 20, 2005.[20]
  • Krista Edwards, Chief Counsel in 2006, Deputy Administrator 2007 [21][better source needed]
  • Carl T. Johnson, acting Administrator from January 9, 2008 until 2009[citation needed]
  • Ted Willke, Deputy Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety from 2007 [22][better source needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure: Hearing on Implementation of Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement, and Safety Act of 2006". Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  2. ^ "United States Statutes at Large, Volume 118, 108th Congress, 2nd Session". Gpo.gov. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  3. ^ Allgov.com CL Quarterman, Administrator
  4. ^ "PHMSA - About Hazmat". Phmsa.dot.gov. 2008-04-30. Retrieved 2012-02-23. 
  5. ^ "PHMSA - About Pipeline". Phmsa.dot.gov. 2008-04-30. Retrieved 2012-02-23. 
  6. ^ a b Lowy, Joan (9 May 2014). "Watchdog says federal agency fails to ensure states are overseeing gas, other pipeline safety". Star Tribune, AP. Retrieved 11 May 2014. The federal effort is so riddled with weaknesses that it's not possible to ensure states are enforcing pipeline safety. 
  7. ^ a b Paul W. Parfomak. "Keeping America’s Pipelines Safe and Secure: Key Issues for Congress Paul W. Parfomak Specialist in Energy and Infrastructure Policy January 9, 2013" (personal communication, December 13, 2012). Congressional Research Service Report for Congress. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  8. ^ "Pipeline Risk Management Information System (PRIMIS)". Primis.phmsa.dot.gov. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  9. ^ "NPMS – Home". Npms.phmsa.dot.gov. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Office of Inspector General (7 May 2014). "PHMSA’s State Pipeline Safety Program Lacks Effective Management and Oversight". Audit AV-2014-041. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  11. ^ "Pacific Gas and Electric Company Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Rupture and Fire" (Pipeline Accident Report). NTSB Number: PAR-11-01. National Transportation Safety Board. 9 September 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  12. ^ Leff, Lisa (Dec 20, 2012). "PG&E customers to foot part of pipe safety costs". Associated Press. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  13. ^ "PG&E Charged with Multiple Violations of the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act". Press Release. Department of Justice. 1 April 2014. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "News - U.S. Regulators Refuse to Release Spill Hazard Estimates for Pipeline from Canada". AllGov. 2011-02-09. Retrieved 2012-02-23. 
  15. ^ a b "Pipeline Spills Put Safeguards Under Scrutiny". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  16. ^ "PHMSA - Key Officials". Phmsa.dot.gov. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  17. ^ "PHMSA - Key Officials - Patricia Klinger". Phmsa.dot.gov. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  18. ^ a b "PHMSA - Key Officials - Magdy El-Sibaie, Ph.D.". Phmsa.dot.gov. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  19. ^ "PHMSA - Key Officials - Jeffrey D. Wiese". Phmsa.dot.gov. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  20. ^ "Stacey Gerard Begins Role as First Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Assistant Administrator/Chief Safety Officer" (PDF). Phmsa.dot.gov. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  21. ^ "PHMSA - Press Release - Announcement Archive - PHMSA Press Release 02-07". Phmsa.dot.gov. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  22. ^ "ATA favors Willke appointment to PHMSA hazmat safety". Bulktransporter.com. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 

External links[edit]