Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bill Huston's preliminary comments on PHMSA rulemaking

Salem, Westmoreland County, PA, 4/29/2016
(photo credit: Noelle Christine/facebook)

BH Comment: AMAZING photo. Keep in mind the photographer is 2,500'ft away. Almost 1/2 mile! This area was not considered of "High Consequence" by PHMSA. This means the pipeline was treated with the lowest level of safety regulations from the moment the pipe was put into the ground)

These are my comments to the Pipeline Safety Trust Listserv in response to someone's comments about PHMSA's new proposed rulemaking for Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Regulations.

I am preparing these technical comments to PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) on their new proposed rulemaking on natural gas pipeline safety. Comments accepted until July 7th 2016.  Docket #: PHMSA-2011-0023-0411

I will be submitting my research of 3 years into the MAJOR FLAWS with the Potential Impact Radius Formula, Pipeline Class, and High Consequence Areas (video). (If you want more info on this rulemaking and want to participate: PHMSA has 2 upcoming Webinars concerning these rules, June 28/29. You can also grab AUDIO (listen for my testimony in the last 30 min) and the Slides from the last webinar HERE)

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------------------- Note to PST Listserv follows: ---------------------

on Fri, 24 Jun 2016 23:14:34, RICHARD KUPREWICZ  wrote:
My perspective, PHMSA gets the technical stuff in this NPRM.  People like Steve Nanny have this technical stuff down cold, have done their research, have had many public meetings and discussions, and gathered a lot of data/information to address much misinformation/spin.  I will have little patience for someone trying to mess with their hardworking attempts to improve the safety intent of the regulation.

PHMSA "gets it"?!!!
Oh brother.

Here are the problems as I see with these proposed rules, and I will be
making comments on the rulemaking docket to this effect.

  1. PHMSA rules are already FAR TOO COMPLEX

    The PHMSA rules on pipeline Class (
    49 CFR § 192.5), and HCA's (49 CFR § 192.903) are EXTREMELY, and unnecessarily complex.

    They would send Rube Goldberg into an insane asylum (and damn near sent me there trying to understand them). 

    PHMSA'S rules for Natural Gas Pipeline Safety
    are more complicated than a Rube Goldberg Machine!

    I  dare ANYONE to look at a given pipeline segment and tell me if it is in an High Consequence Area or not, in a finite amount of time. Let alone 300,000 miles of such!!

    These rules DO create a lot of (unnecessary) jobs for surveyors and creators of specialized software.

    (Would be interesting to trace the connections between the people making money off the complexity  of these rules and their authors/sponsors on the Hill)


  1. PHMSA is ADDING Complexity with "Moderate Consequence Areas"!

    We already have

    • Four Classes of Pipelines
    • times Two types of "Consequence Areas": HCA's and non-HCAs
    • ...which operators can calculate by two different methods!!!
    • ...and now PHMSA is adding ANOTHER type of "consequence area".

    NO! Adding complexity to the already overly complex code is moving in the wrong direction and completely unacceptable.

  2. "High Consequence Area" definition is a corporate cost-benefit equation, and not scientific tool to ensure safe pipelines.

    PHMSA admits in their fact sheet:

    QUOTE: Pipeline safety regulations use the concept of “High Consequence Areas” (HCAs), to identify specific locales and areas where a release could have the most significant adverse consequences. Once identified, operators are required to devote additional focus, efforts, and analysis in HCAs to ensure the integrity of pipelines. ENDQUOTE [SOURCE]

    In other words, a human life in a rural area is of much lower "consequence" than the lives of 10 people living in a city. This might make sense to a corporate accountant, but it DOES NOT seem right to people in rural areas living within the actual Potential Impact Radius should an accident happen.

    This is nothing more than a corporate cost-benefit equation. It is a political definition, and not a scientific one. It allows operators to cut-corners in every way, from yield strength of the steel and the procedures used when the pipe is put in the ground, to the Integrity Management protocols used as the pipeline ages. 

    It is absolutely criminal to suggest that someone's house could be located 271'ft from FOUR high pressure natural gas pipelines, however the area is not considered of "High Consequence".

    Hey guess what? James Baker's home and life maybe not be of "high consequence" to the operator. And maybe not to PHMSA. But it is of High Consequence to James Baker, and all the people in rural areas living withing the blast radius of nearby pipelines. 

    ANYWHERE within the Potential Impact Radius should be considered an area of High Consequence!

    I want the PHMSA administrator to tell James Baker, from Salem PA that his
    home was not considered a "high consequence area". I think he and his
    bride would disagree.

    A corporate cost-benefit equation is not the same thing as a scientific integrity management plan. THIS MUST BE FIXED!

    This home was not considered of "High Consequence". HEY PHMSA!
    It was to the people who lived there!!! (James Baker's home)

  3. PHMSA's rules Protect Pipeline Profits, NOT human lives

    These rules ARE NOT designed to make pipelines safer.
    They are designed to allow pipeline operators to minimize costs,
    AT THE EXPENSE of pipeline safety in rural ares.

    They are a regulatory scheme to allow pipeline operators to do the bare minimum ONLY in densely populated areas. And the complexity gives operators plausible deniability should something go wrong.

    There are a dozen different potential excuses:
    • "We were still doing our surveys which take 15 years".
    • "There was a change of pipeline class".
    • "We used method-2 and not method-1 for computing HCA's"
    • etc. etc.

    Again: unacceptable. 

  4. PHMSA rules are Unconstitutional as they violate Equal Protection Clause

    The 14th Amendment establishes that no state actor can deny to any person the Equal Protection of the Law. However this is exactly what PHMSA does!

    The entire notion of Pipeline Class and HCA's are based on the idea that a human life living in a city is worth more than a human life living in a rural area.

    This is a corporate cost-benefit equation put into place to save operators money.

    I am here advocating for all people living in rural areas within the actual Potential Impact Radius of natural gas pipelines, WHO DESERVE EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAW.

    Like James Baker, from Salem PA, who is presently lying in a hospital bed with 3rd and 4th degree burns over 75% of his body. 

    Helen Baker Interview (his mother):
    PHMSA staff, please listen:

  5. Pipeline Class is based on a faulty model which under-counts impacted persons

    Pipeline Class definition begins with a count of structures which are 660'ft from the centerline, without regard to pressure or diameter of the pipe.

    However, this is an arbitrary number, picked out of thin air.  Another corporate cost-benefit equation, not based in science.

    Looking at 7 of the top pipeline accidents in US history,  in most cases (except Sissonville, and San Bruno) there were major impacts OUTSIDE 660'ft.

    Thus, the entire concept of pipeline Class beings with a model which undercounts potentially impacted persons.

    I am not suggesting that we try to fix this.
    I am suggesting the entire Unconstitutional model of pipeline class is discarded.

  6. The PIR Formula used by PHMSA BADLY underestimates actual observed impacts.

    The predicted PIR, sometimes by as much as 600'ft, and minor impacts (like melted siding) which exceeded the predicted PIR by 1,500'ft, and an error factor of 3.3x (Salem, PA).

    Here's the data I've been collecting for the last 3 years:
    Table showing original research by the author, William A. Huston.  This is based on examining every major pipeline accident in the last 20 years for which I could obtain the data I needed. The fields in orange are fairly accurate, using online tools and official reports to determine distances. I used a very conservative estimate for additional (minor impact radius) based on the smallest actual number I had (San Bruno). As you can see, IN EVERY CASE the major impacts were observed outside of the predicted PIR using PHMSA's flawed formula. When we include minor impacts, like melted siding, which could produce an insurance claim, we find the predicted PIR is off by a factor of up to 3.3x and over 1,500 feet error.

    The yellow bar indicates the predicted PIR using PHMSA's flawed formula. The orange bar is the actual observed major impact radius. The red bar is the ACTUAL impact radius were even minor impacts were observed, which could produce an insurance claim. As you can see, PHMSA's formula is WAY WRONG and underestimates actual impacts in EVERY CASE!

    Major impact radius, delta between the actual and predicted.
    Just including major impacts (scorched earth, homes destroyed)
    the error is off by as much as 600'ft!

    Including minor impacts, we can see the error between the predicted
    and the actual impact radius is as much as 1,500'ft!!

    The actual observed impact radius including minor impacts which might
    provoke an insurance claim, is off from the predicted PIR by a factor of up to 3.3x!!

  7. PIR formula MUST BE FIXED to represent better idea of impact radius.

    The Impact Radius should be considered the radius just outside where any
    impact might result in an insurance claim, including major structural damage,
    minor structural damage, injury or death.

    Presently, we lack good data on 42" failures. So until we know exactly how things
    scale, I would say the ACTUAL PIR should be considered the value obtained
    by the existing formula used by PHMSA multiplied by 3.5x, since 3.3x is the largest
    error factor I have seen, from Salem PA 4/29/2016).

    IMPROVED PIR = 0.69 * Diameter (inches) * MAOP(psig)^(0.5) * 3.5

  8. PHMSA's faulty assumptions accumulate throughout the Code

    This diagram represents about two full days of analysis of the PHMSA rules
    as they exist today at 49 CFR Part 192.

    The Pink Lines are supposed to indicate where the Code (PHMSA) has
    made a faulty assumption, or an assumption which violates our Constitutional
    Right to Equal Protection of the Law.

    As you can see, the error accumulates.

    Pipeline Safety Regulations begin with bad assumptions,
    and it gets worse from there.

  9. PHMSA rules are now Self-Referential

    This comment is more of a problem  which only Congress can fix, but
    I will note it hear anyway.

    The Code, a/k/a/ "regulations", (contained in the CFR: Code of Federal Regulations)
    is supposed to be implement the Law, a/k/a statutes, (contined in the USC: United States
    Code). The Code/Regulations is supposed to be subordinate to the Law in all cases.

    But in some cases, now the LAW refers to the CODE!!!

    e.g., the PIPES Act of 2016 which Obama just signed, contains stuff like this:

    "(c) Definition of high consequence area.—In this section, the term
    "high consequence area" has the meaning given the term in section
    192.903 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations."

    1: The Code is enabled by Law,
    2: the Law is now defined by the Code.
    So what we have is now like this:

    WTF: The Code is defined by the Statutes, which is defined by the Code.....

    i.e., insane.  This must be fixed.

  10. PHMSA must eliminate "Inclusion by reference" of industry-written codes

    The definition for "on-shore gathering line" is not defined by any US government
    agency, but instead is defined by the American Petroleum Institution in API-RP80,
    which is included by reference at 49 CFR § 192.8.

    This allows industry to build massive, polluting compressor stations,
    like the 50 acre Williams Central Station in Brooklyn Township, Susquehanna
    County, PA, and the Williams Dunbar Compressor in W. Windsor NY, which
    are CLEARLY used for the interstate transportation of natural gas, and thus
    jurisdictional under the Natural Gas Act, to be built WITHOUT a FERC
    of Public Convenience and Necessity, and without an environmental
    review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

  11. PHMSA must investigate ALL major pipeline accidents and produce a PAR
    including data necessary to calibrate PIR formula

    One problem which has stymied my investigation into pipeline accidents
    is lack of an official report, including basic details and photographs, and
    probable cause.

    Even when a report is generated, the data is reported in such a way
    as to prevent calibration of the PIR formula,

    e.g. in the Sissonville PAR report prepared by NTSB, the major impact
    radius as measured from the point of rupture is absent. What is reported
    is the blast DIAMETER, without regard to the point of impact.

    In addition to reporting where major impacts occur (burned earth, destroyed
    homes), the extent of minor impacts reportable as an insurance claim
    should also be report, e.g., melted siding.
  12. ALL PERSONS living within the Actual Potential Radius using my formula  (Federal PIR x 3.5x) should be notified.This is requested by me, and by Helen Baker, James Baker's mother.

    James and his wife had NO IDEA they lived inside the blast zone of 4x pipelines.
    • For all 300,000 miles of natural gas transmission lines, large, readable signs should be placed marking the "IMPROVED PIR" radius (federal PIR x 3.5x)
      "DANGER: You are entering a potential PIPELINE BLAST ZONE"
    • All persons living within the IMPROVED PIR radius should be notified
      a) in their lease (if renting) or b) in their deed (when purchasing). 
    • All person living within the IMPROVED PIR radius should be compelled to initial a statement indicating "I understand my home and/or property as identified by this supplied map is within a Pipeline Potential Impact Radius".

  13. PHMSA should establish mandatory setbacksPHMSA should not allow new construction of homes, schools, playgrounds, or other human occupied structures, or highways to be constructed within the Major Impact Radius UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Legacy situations need to be marked with appropriate signage and owners, leasees notified by letter.

That's all I have for now.

Binghamton NY

May you, and all beings
be happy and free from suffering :)
-- ancient Buddhist Prayer (Metta)

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