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Texas wants court to set aside natural gas storage rule

17 Mar 2017, 8.50 pm GMT

Texas wants court to set aside natural gas storage rule

Washington, 17 March (Argus) — The Texas attorney general today asked a US federal court to set aside federal safety regulations for underground storage facilities issued at the end of the Obama Administration.

Attorney general Ken Paxton asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to set aside the 18 January rulemaking by the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) as arbitrary. The rule converts voluntary standards of the American Petroleum Institute covering 400 US underground natural gas storage facilities to mandatory ones.

The regulation was prompted by the leak discovered in October 2015 at SoCal Gas' Aliso Canyon storage facility in California that was blamed for releasing an estimated 4.6 Bcf (130mn m³) of natural gas into the atmosphere. The Obama administration made the rule a priority because of the perceived environmental impact.

Paxton said storage operators would have to petition PHMSA to obtain delegate authority to commission, which would still have to fully apply the federal regulation.

Texas stores natural gas in 18 salt caverns and 13 depleted reservoirs, and Paxton wants those facilities to continue to be regulated by the Texas Railroad Commission.

He added that the regulation was adopted without a comment period and strips states of their traditional authority over intrastate and interstate underground natural gas facilities.

The regulation was published in the Federal Register on 19 December and included a 60-day comment period, which is nothing more than a formality at the end of a presidential administration.

The regulations for the first time establish federal requirements for the operations, maintenance, management and emergency responsible activities for the "downhole" components of underground gas storage facilities, such as wells, wellbore tubing and casing. PHMSA previously only regulated the pipeline at the surface of those facilities.

The new storage safety standards go into effect 12 months after publication. The natural gas industry supports the rules but wants until 2020 to comply.

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