New Regulations for Natural Gas Transmission Pipelines

March 21, 2016

The DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) recently announced proposed regulations to update critical safety requirements for natural gas transmission pipelines. The proposed rule would broaden the scope of safety coverage both by adding new assessment and repair criteria for gas transmission pipelines, and by expanding these protocols to include pipelines located in areas of medium population density, or “Moderate Consequence Areas,” (MCAs) where an incident would pose risk to human life. The proposed rule provides pipeline operators with regulatory certainty, and responds to both Congressional mandates and outside safety recommendations.

“The significant growth in the nation’s production, usage and commercialization of natural gas is placing unprecedented demands on the nation’s pipeline system,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This proposal includes a number of commonsense measures that will better ensure the safety of communities living alongside pipeline infrastructure and protect our environment.”

The proposed regulations address four congressional mandates from the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011, one GAO recommendation and six NTSB recommendations, including the recommendation adopted in the wake of the San Bruno explosion that pipelines built before 1970 be tested. Pipelines built before 1970 are currently exempted from certain pipeline safety regulations because they were constructed and placed into operation before pipeline safety regulations were developed. In its investigation of the PG&E natural gas pipeline failure and explosion in San Bruno, CA, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that hydrostatic testing of grandfathered pipelines would have likely exposed the defective pipe that led to the pipeline failure.

“Following significant pipeline incidents such as the 2010 San Bruno, California tragedy, there was a pressing need to enhance public safety and the integrity of the nation’s pipeline system,” said PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez. “The proposal’s components address the emerging needs of America’s natural gas pipeline system and adapt and expand risk-based safety practices to pipelines located in areas where incidents could have serious consequences.”

The proposed changes provide pipeline operators with regulatory certainty that they need when making decisions and investments to improve gas transmission infrastructure, and address priorities outlined as part of the Climate Action Plan to reduce methane emissions. The proposed changes to gas transmission safety regulations are expected to result in fewer incidents, which could lead to a reduction in gas released into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases (GHGs). The proposed rule is expected to result in net annual average reductions of 900-1,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide and 4,600-8,100 metric tons of methane, a powerful GHG. The rule also proposes changes to the way that pipeline operators secure and inspect gas transmission pipeline infrastructure following extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and flooding.

In addition to the specific requirements mentioned above, the rulemaking proposal would revise and strengthen federal Pipeline Safety Regulations by:

  • Modifying repair criteria for pipelines inside and outside of high consequence areas
  • Providing additional direction on how to evaluate internal inspection results to identify anomalies
  • Clarifying requirements for conducting risk assessment for integrity management, including addressing seismic risk
  • Expanding mandatory data collection and integration requirements for integrity management, including data validation and seismicity
  • Requiring additional post-construction quality inspections to address coating integrity and cathodic protection issues
  • Requiring new safety features for pipeline launchers and receivers
  • Requiring a systematic approach to verify a pipeline’s maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) and requiring operators to report MAOP exceedances

The notice of proposed rulemaking has been transmitted to the Federal Register for publication. An actual date of publication will be determined by the Federal Register, but a preview of the rulemaking proposal transmitted by PHMSA is available on the agency’s website.

Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule


In the first major modification to the hazardous waste regulations in over 10 years, EPA plans to modify and reorganize the hazardous waste generator rule. When adopted, the rule will provide greater flexibility in how hazardous waste is managed and close important gaps in the regulations.

Attend Environmental Resource Center’s live, online session on April 18 to learn:

  • New requirements for documenting hazardous waste determinations
  • Revised requirements for when and how to submit the Notification of Generator Status form to EPA
  • How to take advantage of the episodic generation exclusion to avoid reclassification to a larger generator status
  • Definitions of important new terms – “Very Small Quantity Generator” and “Central Accumulation Area”
  • How to mark containers, tanks, and containment buildings with new information required at central accumulation areas and satellites
  • New conditions under which containers can be left open at satellite accumulation areas
  • Updated time and volume limits for satellite accumulation areas
  • New documentation requirements for contingency plans and biennial reports
  • New requirements for shipping hazardous waste from a VSQG to another facility owned by the same organization


New Exclusions for Solvent Recycling and Hazardous Secondary Materials

EPA’s new final rule on the definition of solid waste creates new opportunities for waste recycling outside the scope of the full hazardous waste regulations. This rule, which went into effect on July 13, 2015, streamlines the regulatory burden for wastes that are legitimately recycled.

The first of the two exclusions is an exclusion from the definition of solid waste for high-value solvents transferred from one manufacturer to another for the purpose of extending the useful life of the original solvent by keeping the materials in commerce to reproduce a commercial grade of the original solvent product.

The second, and more wide-reaching of the two exclusions, is a revision of the existing hazardous secondary material recycling exclusion. This exclusion allows you to recycle, or send off-site for recycling, virtually any hazardous secondary material. Provided you meet the terms of the exclusion, the material will no longer be hazardous waste.

Learn how to take advantage of these exclusions at Environmental Resource Center’s live webcast on April 11 where you will learn:

  • Which of your materials qualify under the new exclusions
  • What qualifies as a hazardous secondary material
  • Which solvents can be remanufactured, and which cannot
  • What is a tolling agreement
  • What is legitimate recycling
  • Generator storage requirements
  • What documentation you must maintain
  • Requirements for off-site shipments
  • Training and emergency planning requirements
  • If it is acceptable for the recycler to be outside the US


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MDEQ Proposes Tougher Drinking Water Standards to Protect Residents from 1,4-Dioxane

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is proposing to strengthen the drinking water cleanup standard for 1,4-Dioxane by a factor of 10 in a new rules package under consideration by the agency. The more protective standard is based on new calculations completed by the DEQ using a science-based process, including current EPA toxicity data and Michigan-specific exposure factors. The new rule would change the 1,4-Dioxane drinking water standard in Michigan from 85 parts per billion (ppb) to 7.2 ppb.

The chemical 1,4-Dioxane is an industrial solvent that has been linked to human health concerns at certain concentrations given long-term exposure. The proposed change would affect contaminated sites across the state where 1,4-Dioxane has been shown to be present. The DEQ and the citizens of the City of Ann Arbor have been focused on the standard as it pertains to the Pall-Gelman contaminant plume. The Pall-Gelman 1,4-Dioxane plume has contaminated three square miles of groundwater below the City of Ann Arbor.

The plume has not affected the City of Ann Arbor’s drinking water supply. One Scio Township resident’s well water had 1,4-Dioxane levels greater than Michigan’s new proposed standard. That home has been connected to the city’s water supply. Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget includes an additional $700,000 for addressing the Pall-Gelman1,4-Dioxane plume.

“The DEQ’s first priority is to protect public health,” said DEQ Director Keith Creagh. “This revised standard strengthens those protections for all Michiganders. The DEQ is committed to open communications and transparency of our actions in affected communities. We will work with local stakeholders to ensure residents are informed and supported.”

Creagh will take part in a town hall meeting hosted by Rep. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor. The event will take place 6 p.m. Monday, April 18, in the auditorium of the Eberwhite Elementary School, 800 Soule Boulevard, Ann Arbor.

“The Ann Arbor community and its leaders have been great partners in addressing this issue, and we look forward to continuing to work with them on addressing the Pall-Gelman plume,” Creagh said.

The calculation of the 1,4-Dioxane criteria is part of a major effort by the DEQ to update the criteria for 308 hazardous substances used to determine cleanup standards across the state. The new state standard assumes an exposure period of 32 years at the level of 7.2 ppb to protect public health.

The Michigan standard will be an enforceable standard. It is based upon the same toxicity level as the U.S. EPA’s screening level. However, the federal screening level of 3.5 ppb—which is not enforceable—assumes an exposure period of 70 years. The state standard assumes an exposure period of 32 years to provide a more realistic assumption of risk and greater protections for the public. The Michigan standard will be among the most protective state standards in the country.

The DEQ’s process for updating these standards uses the latest, scientific information from reliable sources as well as Michigan-specific exposure scenarios to ensure the protection of public health, safety, and welfare for all Michigan citizens.

“We are in the process of finalizing the update for the cleanup standards for all hazardous substances and their exposure routes and will be releasing all of the proposed standards in April,” said DEQ Remediation and Redevelopment Chief Bob Wagner. “Review of the proposed rules will involve the Legislature as well as provide opportunity for public comment. We plan to finalize the rules as soon as possible with appropriate reviews.”

EPA Appoints Experts to Help Develop National Electronic System to Track Hazardous Waste Shipments

Recently, the EPA announced the selection of a diverse group of experts to join the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Advisory Board. This will help streamline business processes and systems to reduce reporting burden on states and industry while and providing EPA, states, and the public with easier access to environmental data.

EPA selected eight experts to help ensure a diversity of geographic, economic, and cultural perspectives. This includes experts from the information technology sector, state agencies, and the regulated industry. The Advisory Board will be made up of the EPA Administrator or her designee and the following:

  • Michael M. Hurley, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
  • John Ridgway, Program Manager, Washington State Department of Ecology
  • Joshua Burman, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  • Thomas Baker, Senior Director, Environment and Transportation Department, Veolia North America, Industrial Business
  • Raymond Lewis, Co-founder, Wastebits
  • Raj Paul, Vice President, Automotive & Emerging Technologies, Lochbridge
  • Cynthia Walczak, Environmental Project Manager, MPS Group
  • Justin Wilson, Senior Manager, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

EPA will convene the Advisory Board periodically beginning later this year. The Advisory Board will make recommendations on system performance and user fees, provide advice on regulations and guidance, evaluate system effectiveness, and explore options to encourage system usage. Establishing this Advisory Board demonstrates important progress in operationalizing the e-manifest system, which EPA intends to deploy in the spring of 2018.

Oregon State University Fined $275,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations


“Strict accountability for hazardous waste is vital to protecting people and the environment at every step of the way,” said Director Ed Kowalski of EPA’s Pacific Northwest Office of Compliance and Enforcement. “Without knowing what its hazardous wastes were from the very beginning, it was impossible for Oregon State University to ensure its chemicals were handled safely, which could have put students, faculty, and first responders at significant risk.”

In addition, OSU did not have a RCRA permit to manage and store the hazardous wastes.

 Considerable quantities of hazardous chemicals are found not just at large manufacturing facilities, but at a variety of facilities, where they pose the very same risks. OSU is a college campus with more than 25,000 students and 4,700 full time employees, and the potential for harm was substantial if a release, fire, or explosion had occurred near a classroom or other building where hazardous wastes were being generated. Several of the locations where mismanaged waste was accumulated were in close proximity to students and faculty.

OSU’s failure to identify all of the hazards associated with each waste also posed a safety threat to the facilities with which OSU contracts to transport, treat and dispose of the waste. If a spill occurred during transportation, the flammable, reactive, or other hazards from the waste might not be known to the transporter or emergency responders, putting them at risk. If misidentified wastes were sent to a treatment and disposal facility then incineration, neutralization, and even mixing with water could have resulted in fires or explosions.

 Landfill workers who subsequently handled these materials were put at risk of harm in handling wastes that should have been identified as hazardous wastes.


EPA Inspection Reveals Hazardous Waste Violations at FRC Component Products

 In a settlement filed by EPA in Lenexa, Kansas, the company will pay a $3,356 civil penalty to the United States.

As part of the settlement, the company is also required to complete a Supplemental Environmental Project, which will consist of a comprehensive light bulb retrofit, replacing 2,920 lamps at its manufacturing facility. The cost of this retrofit is estimated at $40,774 and must be completed within six months. This project will supplement FRC Component Products' already existing solar panel program further reducing its environmental footprint.

The company also failed to comply with waste management requirements by not closing, labeling and dating some universal waste containers.

In addition to the penalty and light bulb retrofit, FRC Component Products is required to provide photographic evidence that storage containers are kept closed, and that hazardous waste containers are labeled. The company is also required to submit copies of waste-related shipping papers for 2014 and 2015.

By agreeing to the settlement, FRC Component Products has certified that it is now in compliance with all requirements of RCRA and its implementing regulations.

The RCRA program's goals are to protect human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal, conserve energy and natural resources, reduce the amount of waste generate,; and ensure the wastes are managed in an environmentally-sound manner.

Contractor Fined for Construction Runoff Along I-205


Cascade Bridge, LLC, of Vancouver received the fine after numerous site visits and attempts by Ecology to provide the company with technical assistance to secure the site to prevent runoff and pollution problems.

Violations were documented in August, October, and November. Muddy runoff got into Burnt Bridge Creek on December 3, 4, and 7 from a construction site between Mill Plain Boulevard and Northeast 18th Street.

Muddy runoff is an environmental problem because it degrades fish habitat and water quality. Burnt Bridge Creek is home to stocks of coho and Chinook salmon, as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout.

"Transportation projects are important for Washington. It's equally important that projects move forward with environmental protections in place," said Rich Doenges, Water Quality Program manager in Ecology's Southwest Regional Office.

In addition to the runoff problems, the contractor failed to stabilize stockpiles of soil to prevent erosion and did not properly contain hazardous materials, such as fuels, kept on site.

Cascade Bridge, LLC, a contractor hired by the state Department of Transportation, is responsible to pay the fine, not the Department of Transportation.

Cascade Bridge, LLC, has 30 days to pay the penalty or file an appeal with the Pollution Control Hearings Board.

New Selenium Discharge Limits for North San Francisco Bay


Selenium is an essential beneficial nutrient in very small quantities, but in higher concentrations it can accumulate in tissues of fish and wildlife, and impair reproduction in sensitive species. Current levels of selenium in the North Bay are not posing a threat to fish and wildlife.

 The selenium TMDL is designed to maintain levels of the mineral in order to protect human health and the environment.

Selenium enters the North Bay from a number of sources, including oil refineries and waste water treatment plants, but the primary source of selenium is the Central Valley watershed, and specifically the San Joaquin River. Selenium occurs naturally in the soils in the San Joaquin River basin, and is leached into the river with farm irrigation drainage.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board already has TMDLs in place to control and reduce the amount of selenium entering the San Joaquin River. Changes in flow regimes on the river may affect the selenium loads in the future. The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Board will continue to monitor North Bay water quality to assure that selenium levels don’t threaten fish and wildlife.

Of particular concern in north San Francisco Bay are white sturgeon and Sacramento splittail. Sturgeon are bottom-feeders, eating clams that accumulate selenium. The TMDL is also protective of green sturgeon, a federal-listed endangered species.

The amendment was adopted on November 18 by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, and approved recently by the State Water Board. The amendment becomes effective upon approval of the Office of Administrative Law and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Spokane River Task Force Advances Fight on Toxics

A Spokane River group leading efforts to find and eliminate toxic chemicals has prevented 283 lb of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from entering the river.

A 2007 study estimated that in order to meet water quality standards for the Spokane River, 1.68 lb of PCBs would need to be prevented from entering the river each year.


PCBs remain in the environment and build up over time in fish, animals, and people. That’s why finding even tiny amounts of these chemicals in the Spokane River requires action.


“The task force’s ultimate goal is to help the Spokane River meet strict water quality standards that protect people and the environment,” said Water Quality section manager Jim Bellatty. “Without the group’s collective problem solving and ability to work together, we wouldn’t have made such significant progress in tackling PCBs for the health of our river and community.”

The group, facilitated by the William D. Ruckelshaus Center, has been working since 2012 on a comprehensive approach to simultaneously identify and reduce all sources of PCBs in the Spokane River Basin. Ecology’s role in the task force is to provide resources and ensure accountability of its members, including evaluation of the group’s activities.


The report also highlights several studies completed by the task force or its members. These studies and the task force’s leadership has resulted in state and local governments establishing purchasing policies that will provide preference for products that don’t contain PCBs.

More projects are currently underway to identify additional sources of PCBs to the river including a study of fish hatcheries, air deposition, and groundwater. The task force also is developing a suite of best practices that can be used to reduce PCBs and bring the Spokane River into compliance with water quality standards.

Although PCBs were banned in 1979, they continue to leak out of old materials today and cause environmental harm. New PCBs are also created as byproducts in manufacturing and can be found in dyes and pigments.

$1.5 Million Penalty for Illegally Discharging Oil into the Ocean

The German shipping companies Briese Schiffahrts GmbH & Co. KG and Briese Schiffahrts GmbH & Co. KG MS “Extum,” who owned and operated the cargo ship M/V BBC Magellan, pleaded guilty recently to failure to maintain an accurate oil record book, in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and tampering with witnesses by persuading them to provide false statements to the U.S. Coast Guard concerning a bypass hose on the vessel that was being used to discharge oil into the sea.

The two companies were sentenced to pay a total of $1.25 million in fines and a $250,000 community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund projects that enhance coastal habitats of the Gulf of Mexico and bolster priority fish and wildlife populations. In addition, the ship M/V BBC Magellan is banned from doing business in the United States for the next five years. The pleas and sentences were announced by Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Christopher P. Canova for the Northern District of Florida.

The operation of a marine vessel, such as the M/V BBC Magellan, generates large quantities of waste oil and oil-contaminated waste water. International and U.S. law requires that these vessels use pollution prevention equipment to preclude the discharge of these materials. Should any overboard discharges occur, they must be documented in an oil record book, a log that is regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard.

In March 2015, during an inspection at the Port of Pensacola, the U.S. Coast Guard discovered an improperly attached rubber hose. Officials later determined that, between January and March 2015, the crew of the M/V BBC Magellan, acting on behalf of the vessel’s owner, had installed and illegally used the rubber hose to remove oily wastes from the vessel’s holding tanks and discharged them directly into the ocean. The crew also failed to make the required entries in the vessel’s oil record book. When questioned about the hose’s purpose and how oily wastes were discharged from the ship, the chief engineer instructed other crew members to lie to the Coast Guard.

“Shipping companies that transport commerce across open seas must respect the international laws and obligations of their trade, which exist to prevent the spoiling of oceans and marine habitat,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden. “This egregious behavior by shipping companies, which included intentional deception and witness tampering, will not be tolerated. We will continue to prosecute companies and their officers for these crimes.”

“Future generations deserve to enjoy clean and safe coastal waters, and we will continue to prosecute environmental crimes to prevent pollution of our natural resources,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Canova. “Our federal environmental laws rightfully require companies to record their oil waste disposal to keep them accountable and to protect our oceans and marine life.”

“When a company knowingly fails to comply with our nation’s environmental laws, it can have a devastating effect on both public health and wildlife,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Andy Castro of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) criminal enforcement program in Florida. “The defendants in this case falsified entries in their vessel’s log books to hide the true nature of its open water discharges. Today’s court action should signal to would-be violators that the American people will not allow the flagrant violation of U.S. laws.”

The case was investigated by U.S. Coast Guard Sector Mobile, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and the EPA. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Ryan Love for the Northern District of Florida and Trial Attorney Brandy N. Parker of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice Environmental and Natural Resources Division.

Irrigation District Settles Illegal Water Use Violation

The Touchet Eastside Westside Irrigation District agreed to pay a reduced fine over violations for illegally using water intended to protect fish.

The Washington Department of Ecology fined the district in 2015 for diverting water that was placed into trust to protect critical stream flows for threatened steelhead in the Touchet River.

The Touchet River is part of a watershed that is one of 16 considered critical for providing habitat for threatened migratory fish.

Ecology reduced the fine to $62,543 from the original $73,530 because the district provided adjusted metering data that more accurately reflected the amount of water illegally used.

The settlement requires the district to pay half of the penalty, and the remainder will be excused after three years as long as terms in the agreement are met. Terms include providing accurate metering data and staying within the limits of permitted water use.

Under the agreement, the district must apply $10,000 of the fine toward operation and maintenance of the metering and reporting equipment. The Pollution Control Hearings Board approved the settlement on March 16.

New Carbon Capture Membrane Boasts CO2 Highways


The researchers focused on a hybrid membrane that is part polymer and part metal-organic framework, which is a porous three-dimensional crystal with a large internal surface area that can absorb enormous quantities of molecules.

In a first, the scientists engineered the membrane so that carbon dioxide molecules can travel through it via two distinct channels. Molecules can travel through the polymer component of the membrane, like they do in conventional gas-separation membranes. Or molecules can flow through “carbon dioxide highways” created by adjacent metal-organic frameworks.

Initial tests show this two-route approach makes the hybrid membrane eight times more carbon dioxide permeable than membranes composed only of the polymer. Boosting carbon dioxide permeability is a big goal in efforts to develop carbon capture materials that are energy efficient and cost competitive.

“In our membrane, some CO2 molecules get an express ride through the highways formed by metal-organic frameworks, while others take the polymer pathway. This new approach will enable the design of higher performing gas separation membranes,” says Norman Su, a graduate student in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department at UC Berkeley and a user at the Molecular Foundry.

He conducted the research with Jeff Urban, Facility Director of the Inorganic Nanostructures Facility at the Molecular Foundry, and a team of scientists that included staff at the Advanced Light Source. Capturing carbon emissions from electric power plants and other sources is a hot research topic because there’s a lot of room for improvement. The conventional way of separating carbon dioxide from flue gas is amine adsorption, which isn’t economical at scale because it adds significant capital cost and reduces the electrical output of power plants.

Scientists are exploring polymer membranes as a more energy efficient alternative to amine adsorption. These membranes are relatively inexpensive and easy to work with, but current commercial membranes have low carbon dioxide permeability. To overcome this, scientists have developed hybrid membranes that are part polymer and part metal-organic framework. These hybrids harness the carbon dioxide selectivity of metal-organic frameworks while maintaining the processability of polymers.

But, until now, scientists have not been able to engineer hybrid membranes with enough metal-organic frameworks to form continuous channels through the membrane. This means that, somewhere in a carbon dioxide molecule’s journey through the membrane, the molecule must contact the polymer. This constrains the molecule’s transport to the polymer.

In this latest research, Berkeley Lab scientists have developed a hybrid membrane in which metal-organic frameworks account for 50% of its weight, which is about 20% more than other hybrid membranes. Previously, the mechanical stability of a hybrid membrane limited the amount of metal-organic frameworks that could be packed in it.

“But we got our membrane to 50 weight percent without compromising its structural integrity,” says Su.

And 50 weight percent appears to be the magic number. At that threshold, there are so many metal organic frameworks in the membrane that they form a continuous network of highways through the membrane. When that happens, the hybrid membrane switches from having a single channel to transport carbon dioxide, in which the molecules must go through the polymer, to two channels, in which the molecules can either move through the polymer or through the metal-organic framework highways.

“This is the first hybrid polymer-MOF membrane to have these dual transport pathways, and it could be a big step toward more competitive carbon capture processes,” says Su.

In addition to fabricating the hybrid membrane at the Molecular Foundry, the scientists analyzed the material at beamline 12.2.2 of the Advanced Light Source.

The research was supported by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Berkeley Lab’s Laboratory-Directed Research and Development Program, and the Department of Defense. The Advanced Light Source and the Molecular Foundry are DOE Office of Science User Facilities located at Berkeley Lab.

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Trivia Question of the Week

What percent of seabirds consume plastic?

a) 60

b) 70

c) 80

d) 90