EDF Moves to Defend Gas Pipeline Safety, Environmental Standards in Court

June 2, 2022
Sharyn Stein, 202-905-5718, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – June 2, 2022) Environmental Defense Fund has moved to intervene in a lawsuit to defend the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) safety and environmental standards for gas gathering pipelines.

“There are more than 435,000 miles of gas gathering pipelines in the United States, the vast majority of which have never been nationally regulated,” said EDF senior attorney Erin Murphy. “PHMSA’s rule establishes long overdue, common sense standards that will improve safety and reduce methane and other harmful pollution from gas gathering lines across the country.”

Gathering lines transport unprocessed gas — which contains the potent climate pollutant methane, as well as volatile organic compounds and other hazardous air pollutants — from production areas such as well sites to processing facilities. With the domestic boom in unconventional shale drilling over the last 20 years, there has been significant buildout of gathering line infrastructure – with increased mileage, pipe diameter, and pressure. Higher pressure and larger diameter pipelines pose a greater safety and environmental risk.

Recent research found that gathering lines accounted for one-fifth of identified methane emissions from major sources in the Permian Basin. In March, a break on a gathering line called the Big Cowboy Pipeline created the most severe U.S. methane release event in the last year, releasing up to 900 metric tons of methane in just over one hour — the equivalent annual emissions from 5,000 passenger cars.

PHMSA’s gathering line rule requires owners and operators of all onshore gas gathering lines to file annual reports and report incidents for the purpose of monitoring safety and determining the need for future regulations to address risks to the public and the environment. The rule also establishes a new category of gathering lines — Type C, applicable to more than 90,000 miles of pipeline – that are subject to emergency planning and damage prevention standards. A subset of Type C lines comprising more than 20,000 miles of pipeline are also subject to leak detection and repair and corrosion control standards.

GPA Midstream, an industry group, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit challenging the rule. EDF is now asking to join that lawsuit in defense of the rule.

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