On Feb. 27, the drill head of a horizontal directional drilling (HDD) machine clipped a 5/8-inch gas line in a residential neighborhood of Royal Oak, MI. Escaping gas migrated to a nearby home and soon after the drilling crew left for the day, the gas ignited, destroying one home and killing its owner.
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is reviewing a draft of a proposed Standard Specification for Horizontal Directional Drilling which would ensure quality trenchless installations of underground pipelines and conduits.
Separate regulatory and legislative developments could affect local government ability to afford water infrastructure projects. The Environmental Protection Agency is considering revisions to the agency's 1997 financial capability guidelines which dictate how hard the agency can press cities and counties to undertake expensive Clean Water Act projects such as sewer repairs.
The most significant federal action this year affecting underground construction companies is likely to be the final rule from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on excavation damage. The rule will have two parts. One will define minimum excavation damage program standards for states.
The Department of Energy published a report from NERA Economic Consulting which concludes unlimited exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) will help the U.S. economy, and the greater the exports, the greater the public good. The DOE automatically approves LNG exports to countries with a Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. But it must find that exports to countries without FTAs are in the public interest. The DOE commissioned the report to help it decide whether to approve additional non-FTA exports.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a direct final rule that applies the requirements of the August 2010 cranes and derricks in construction standard to demolition work and underground construction, the agency revealed in mid-August.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the state of Illinois announced a Clean Water Act (CWA) settlement with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) to resolve claims that untreated sewer discharges were released into Chicago area waterways during flood and wet weather events.
The One-Call and excavation damage provisions included in the new pipeline safety bill passed by Congress in December will trigger a number of state and federal responses in 2012. However, a rule allowing the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to impose civil penalties on excavators -- ordered by the 2006 pipeline safety bill but never finalized -- would be even more significant. A proposed rule moving that requirement forward is expected this year, finally, perhaps as early as this winter.
Natural gas transmission companies are very unhappy with the EPA's decision to tighten industry air emission limits. A consent decree signed by the EPA requires the agency to revise both New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) for the natural gas industry, including for pipelines, by the end of February. Those are two separate EPA regulatory programs.