The Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2020 was enacted to strengthen pipeline safety and integrity, as part of the broader Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. The law is administered by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) under the Department of Transportation.
The law amends the pipeline safety laws to provide that certain regulations should be designed both to protect against hazards to human safety and to the environment. In this regards, Section 114 of the PIPES Act of 2020 for the first time endows the Secretary of Transport the authority to enforce environmental standards on gas pipeline or hazardous liquid pipeline facilities. This means that PHMSA regulations can include requirements to minimise methane and other greenhouse gas emissions in situations that go beyond the traditional mandate of protecting human health.
Section 112 and 113 directs the Secretary of Transport to finalise updates to the Federal Pipeline Safety Regulations that would require operators of new and existing onshore gas transmission and distribution pipeline facilities to conduct leak detection and repair (LDAR). The regulations must specify minimum performance standards that "reflect the capabilities of commercially available advanced technologies" appropriate for the type of pipeline, location, materials of which the pipeline is constructed, and the material transported by the pipeline. The LDAR programme must be able to identify, locate and categorise all leaks that:
- are hazardous to human safety or the environment; or
- have the potential to become explosive or otherwise hazardous to human safety