How to Prepare for Severe Weather Disasters

PHMSA Mega Rule: How to Prepare for Severe Weather Disasters

January 16, 2023

By Jen Holmstadt, Senior Project Manager, Oil and Gas, WSB

Hurricanes, flash floods, landslides, or any other form of severe weather can affect the environment by causing things like cracks and leaks in existing pipeline infrastructure. These issues can impact owners, managers, and workers of midstream transmission pipelines if they aren’t proactive in dealing with issues that may arise. 

As part of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHSMA) final rule Repair Criteria, Integrity Management Improvements, Cathodic Protection, Management of Change, and Other Related Amendments (RIN2), PHMSA amended section 192.613 Continuing Surveillance to align with requirements previously added to the liquids rule. The new language seeks to decrease environmental issues by incentivizing proactive planning to protect and fix infrastructure in a timely manner after weather disasters.  

WSB has a team of experts in geohazard risk assessment who can help companies navigate the murky waters of regulation and policy surrounding RIN2.

Policy Change

Extreme weather has been a contributing factor to several pipeline failures. PHMSA has issued Advisory Bulletins in 2015, 2016, 2019, and 2022 to communicate the potential that severe weather has to negatively impact pipeline integrity.  PHSMA has amended 192.613 to require pipeline operators to inspect their potentially damaged infrastructure within 72 hours of a severe weather occurrence. If an issue is found during inspection, the operator is required to take the steps necessary to address the problem area.

PHMSA has defined extreme weather or natural disaster as any event that has the likelihood of damaging pipeline facilities. This includes soil movement around the pipelines, landslides, floods, earthquakes, and named hurricanes and tropical storms. Because storms of differing magnitudes will cause different outcomes in every landscape (e.g., even a small precipitation event may cause a landslide if the slope is unstable), this introduces a fair degree of uncertainty for operators. This regulatory and operational uncertainty can be difficult for companies to navigate, which is why a proactive approach to extreme weather management is important.

The rule goes into effect on May 24, 2023. After petitions by several industry agencies (AGA, API, and INGAA), PHMSA has decided to refrain from taking enforcement action on the severe weather inspections and other requirements from the effective date until February 24, 2024, for pipelines installed or repaired prior to August 24, 2022. We do recommend that operators take advantage of this extension now, PHMSA has the right to revoke this discretion at any time.

Geohazard Risk Assessment and Severe Weather Monitoring

We recommend companies proactively incorporate severe weather planning into their current geohazard risk assessment plan. It is vital that operators know their system, have identified where potential issues could occur, and have a plan in place to act within 72 hours of a hazardous event. 

Having a scientific rationale and process in place within your geohazard risk assessment plan will go a long way when severe weather events happen.

What WSB Can Do

This rule is important to protect the environment, people, and property within the natural gas industry. The best approach to ambiguity and unknowns surrounding this policy change is being proactive. While there are no easy or one-size-fits all answers, there are geohazard risk assessment experts at WSB that are available to provide geohazard management assistance for operators. 

WSB can also provide coaching and planning when it comes to combining a company’s geohazard program with a severe weather monitoring system.

Fisheries

Full Circle Sustainability from Coast to Coast

January 13, 2023

By Tony Havranek, Director of Fisheries, WSB

WSB & FisH2O are helping manage invasive species, protecting wildlife, enhancing water quality, and creating a more resilient future.

Aquatic Invasive Species are behind some of the most drastic changes to freshwater systems in the world today. They are impacting the ecology and water quality of many bodies of water across the U.S We went one step beyond mitigation when we formed FisH20, a subsidiary that grew from WSB’s innovative species management services.

Since 2019, FisH20 has expanded in scope, services and markets served across the U.S. Today, local governments, commercial fishers, lake associations, and wildlife protection agencies are among our partners. Together, we’re providing customized solutions that make an impact and build a more resilient tomorrow.

California
WSB is working with tribal, county, and state leaders to save Clear Lake hitch – an endangered species found only in Northern California. Currently in its first phase, WSB is conducting a carp assessment. 

Nebraska
WSB partnered with a local lake association to mitigate against silver an big head carp, ensuring the lake is safe for recreation.

Minnesota
Based in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, FisH2O helps manage invasive species and protect water quality in lakes, rivers, and streams across the state.

Wisconsin
FisH2O fish are transported through Wisconsin where they are flushed with freshwater and await transport to further locations.

Michigan
Semi trucks transport millions of pounds of FisH2O carp where they are unloaded and held in ponds until they are ready for market.

New York
FisH2O fresh fish travel to New York where they are sold to restaurants, wholesalers, and retailers.

North Carolina
WSB has advised and helped the North Carolina Fish & Wildlife Services obtain a grant that will support the management of invasive species, enhance water quality, and protect local wildlife and ecosystems.


environmental compliance during rapid population growth

Environmental Compliance During Rapid Population Growth

By James Lowe, Director of Municipal Services, WSB

Climate change and other social, economic, and environmental concerns have made headlines in recent years. As such, there is a renewed public interest regarding the effects that large infrastructure projects have on communities and the environment. This is especially true in states like Texas, where governments and communities must manage environmental compliance during rapid population growth and an increasing number of new infrastructure projects.

There are many laws and regulations that require local, city, county, state, and federal government projects to identify potential impacts that their actions may have on the environment. Environmental planners and professionals play a key role in identifying the applicable laws, assessing any impacts, and ensuring that the public is well informed on those actions.

Rapid development and an influx of technology manufacturers and developers in Texas will result in more strain on existing state, county, and municipal infrastructure. These entities will look to the consulting community for solutions to help mitigate and balance the environmental impacts associated with population growth and infrastructure improvements.

What is Environmental Compliance?

Environmental compliance, in its basic sense, is ensuring a project is meeting the requirements of laws, regulations, and codes designed to protect the environment. This basic statement is not complex; however, environmental compliance requirements for a particular project are determined by the regulatory agencies involved and the location and scope of the project. The laws, regulations, and codes cover a wide assortment of items, such as those related to cultural resources, water resources, threatened and endangered species, as well as potential impacts to low income and minority populations.

Recent Trends in Environmental Compliance

Given the rapid growth in Texas, increased development and projects are inevitable. Navigating the necessary compliance for that growth often causes confusion, especially with recent changes in regulations and guidance. In an environmental study, in which time is money, oversight can cause delay. Delay can easily be avoided with early recognition of constraints and coordination with applicable agencies. Adherence to regulations and exhibiting good stewardship of the environment we all share, benefits projects in the long run. Close coordination with environmental planners, design engineers, client staff, and stakeholders early and throughout project development help to avoid costly redesign work. Likewise, it can help mitigate potential schedule delays through early identification of issues and development of solutions.

Working with the Experts

It is often confusing and daunting for government entities, local communities, and private developers to manage environmental compliance during rapid population growth. Here at WSB, we work hand in hand with clients to help them identify environmental constraints and the options available to advance their project. Clients look to our expertise to develop solutions that address rapid growth and navigate the environmental compliance landscape to advance project delivery.

James is the director of municipal services for our Texas offices. He has over 20 years of experience with environmental and municipal services. In his role, he develops strategies to elevate and grow clients, pursues key municipal projects, and hires talent in regions and municipalities across Texas with significant growth opportunities. He serves as a technical resource for Transportation Planning and NEPA/Environmental pursuits and projects.

jlowe@wsbeng.com | 936.329.1967

environmental compliance during rapid population growth