Pipeline operators say uncertainty impeded methane reduction plans

By Mike Soraghan | 06/04/2024 06:29 AM EDT

But federal regulators found most companies complied with a 2020 law to update their plans, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Pieces of the unbuilt Constitution pipeline in upstate New York.

Pieces of unbuilt pipeline in upstate New York. Constitution Pipeline Co.

Pipeline companies told congressional investigators that uncertainty about federal requirements hindered their ability to update their plans to detect and repair methane leaks.

The Government Accountability Office cited the feedback as part of its review of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s expanded role in policing methane emissions. The watchdog’s report — released Monday — found that federal regulators finished reviewing the emissions reduction plans of natural gas pipeline companies by the congressionally mandated deadline of Dec. 27, 2022.

The report comes more than three years after Congress ordered pipeline operators to update their operation and maintenance plans to address methane leaks — and put PHMSA and state authorities in charge of reviewing those plans. The 2020 law, which was tucked into a massive spending bill, resulted in a significant expansion of responsibility for the relatively small agency and drew PHMSA into President Joe Biden’s climate agenda.


The law ordered PHMSA or the appropriate state authority to check companies’ plans for reducing leaks by the end of 2022, even if the agency had not issued new regulations on the topic. GAO found that six states — which it didn’t identify — still had not completed the reviews as of last month.