Community meeting Feb. 28: The West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline and PHMSA

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) took over jurisdiction of the West Roxbury Lateral pipeline once it became operational in January. Join WRSE to hear from a PHMSA representative on Feb. 28 about what this means.


Community Meeting: The West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline and PHMSA

Tuesday, Feb. 28
2 to 4 pm
Elks Hall, 10 Morrell Street, West Roxbury


As reported previously in our e-mail updates, we were informed by the FERC project manager for the AIM project (of which the West Roxbury Lateral pipeline is part) some weeks ago—in September, at the time of the insubstantial “safety” meeting Spectra held with our first responders—that the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) maintains and enforces the pipeline safety regulations, including an emergency plan and many other safety facets once the WRL is operational. As we know, the WRL was put into operation in early January 2017.

The PHMSA regulations require a number of steps be taken by Spectra and National Grid in relation to the West Roxbury Lateral and M&R Station that do not appear to have occurred. The federal regulatory structure requires operating procedures including emergency response to be in place prior to operation and that the gas companies to be in communication with, coordinate with, and liaison with local police and fire. To the extent that they have not done these things, it appears that Spectra and Grid are in violation of these requirements. Spectra and Grid should be responding to the city’s requests not just as a matter of good practice but also as a matter of law. The Mayor as well as the Commissioners of the Boston Police and Fire Departments have written letters to FERC and PHMSA stating that their safety concerns have not been met and their many questions about safety procedures surrounding the WRL have not been answered.

Consequently, we have scheduled a community meeting with a Community Liaison representative from PHMSA on February 28 at 2 pm at the Elks Hall (10 Morrell Street). We are sorry this could not be an evening meeting so that more could attend, but it would have been another two months before we were able to schedule an evening meeting due to the PHMSA rep’s heavy travel schedule (our PHMSA region includes 14 states and the District of Columbia, and the rep’s schedule did not bring her near Massachusetts again for a number of weeks).

Here is our summary of what the PHMSA rep has laid out in regard to the federal pipeline safety laws and standards as referenced by PHMSA with links to the code references:

192.605 requires procedural manual including emergencies be prepared before operations commence and updated at least once a year.

192.614 speaks to damage to pipelines from work by others (like adjacent excavation) and mentions blasting. In the case of blasting, any inspection must include leakage surveys.

192.615 describes requirements for emergency plans, including a requirement for coordination with appropriate fire and police and also establishing and maintaining liaison with fire and police.

192.616 describes requirements for public awareness.

192.706 and .723 describe requirements for leakage surveys based on type of pipeline (transmission and distribution) and on classification of the location (eg, “high consequence areas”).

Here is a link to the section of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Parts 190-199 in full, should you wish to review the entire section on pipeline safety prior to our meeting on Feb. 28:

We look forward to the opportunity to discuss specific safety, emergency plans, and public awareness concerns with PHMSA. In addition, Rep. Coppinger has requested that the Director of the MA Department of Public Utilities Pipeline Engineering and Safety Division attend the meeting. Both Rep. Coppinger and Councilor Matt O’Malley plan to attend, and we hope other elected officials receiving this will come as well. We have been assured by the Mayor’s Office that authoritative representatives from the Boston Police and Fire Departments will be present at the meeting, as well as a representative from the Mayor’s Office. It is our hope that we can finally get some serious consideration of our safety concerns and address the additional issues raised by our first responders so that they have full information and the ability to be prepared in the event of an emergency, as laid out in the PHMSA regulations. Join us if you are able.