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 responsible for developing and enforcing regulations for the safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of the United States' 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. Former United States President George W. Bush signed the legislation into law on November 30, 2004. The purpose of the act was to provide the U.S. Department of Transportation with a more focused research organization and to establish a separate operating administration for pipeline safety and hazardous materials transportation safety operations. In addition, the act presented the department an opportunity to establish model practices in the area of government budget and information practices in support of the president's Management Agenda initiatives.

Cynthia L. Quarterman, an attorney and former government official, became the third Administrator in November 2009.[2]


Hazardous Materials Safety[edit]

The Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (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.[3]

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.

Pipeline Safety[edit]

The Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) is the federal safety authority for the nation's 2.3 million miles of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. OPS has the mission to ensure the safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of the nation's pipeline transportation system.[4]


The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is coming 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 United States.[5] Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who oversees the pipeline agency, acknowledges weaknesses in the program and is asking Congress to pass legislation that would increase penalties for negligent operators and authorize the hiring of additional inspectors.[6]

According to the New York Times, federal records show 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, though down, remains substantial. There are still more than 100 significant spills each year—a trend that dates back more than 20 years. And the percentage of dangerous liquids recovered by pipeline operators after a spill has dropped considerably in recent years.[6]

Integrity Management Program (IMP)[edit]

Pipeline Risk Management Information System (PRIMIS) Integrity Management Programs have led to a reduced amount of pipeline accidents. These were originally created for transmission pipelines.

  • 2001 Liquid Integrity Management Program came into law. (LIMP)
  • 2003 Transmission Integrity Management Program came into law (TIMP)
  • 2008 The final rule is expected for Distribution Integrity Management Program (DIMP)

National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS)[edit]

The U.S. DOT Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) administers the national regulatory program to assure the safe and environmentally sound transportation of natural gas, liquefied natural gas and hazardous liquids by pipeline. 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.

After September 11 the NPMS was removed for number of months from public use, due to security concerns. It has returned with restriction of use. National Pipeline Maps can still be bought from PennWell Corporation.[7]

Current Leadership[edit]

  • Cynthia L. Quarterman, Administrator
  • Timothy P. Butters, Deputy Administrator
  • Vacant, Assistant Administrator/ Chief Safety Officer
  • Vanessa Sutherland, Chief Counsel
  • Jeannie Layson, Director of Governmental, International and Public Affairs
  • Rosanne Goodwill, Director of Civil Rights
  • Madgy El-Sibaie, Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety
  • Jeffrey D. Wiese, Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety
  • Scott Poyer, Associate Administrator for Administration/ Chief Financial Office


Past Leadership[edit]

  • Brigham McCown, First Acting Administrator (Interim CEO, First Full-Time Deputy Administrator (COO)
  • Thomas J. Barrett, First Permanent Administrator
  • Stacey Gerard, First Assistant Administrator/Chief Safety Officer
  • Krista Edwards, Acting Administrator
  • Carl Johnson, Administrator
  • Ted Willke, Deputy Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety


See also[edit]


External links[edit]