After providing Administration-wide support to the state response effort, in early 2016, the Obama Administration convened a new Interagency Task Force on Natural Gas Storage Safety in the wake of the nation’s largest ever natural gas storage leak at SoCalGas’s Aliso Canyon facility. This Task Force, which convened at the White House, was created as a part of the Administration’s ongoing commitment to support state and industry efforts to ensure the safe storage of natural gas. It is co-chaired by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), and is consistent with the task force requirements codified by Congress in the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016, signed into law by President Obama in June. The legislation created a task force established by the Secretary of Energy that consists of representatives from the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Interior, and from state and local governments. The PIPES Act tasked the group with performing an analysis of the Aliso Canyon event, making recommendations to reduce the potential for occurrence of similar incidents in the future, and required that PHMSA consider the findings and recommendations of this report as they work to develop minimum federal safety standards for underground gas storage to be issued within two years.
The Task Force pursued three primary areas of study: integrity of wells at underground gas storage facilities, public health and environmental effects from a natural gas leak like the one at the Aliso Canyon underground gas storage facility, and energy reliability concerns in the case of future natural gas leaks. It held three public stakeholder workshops to hear from stakeholders and the public, and produced a report titled Ensuring Safe and Reliable Underground Natural Gas Storage. Download the full report and read the fact sheet and press release.
Update 12/16/2016: On December 14, PHMSA issued an Interim Final Rule (IFR) revising the Federal pipeline safety regulations to address safety issues related to downhole facilities, including well integrity, wellbore tubing, and casing at underground natural gas storage facilities. More information and the IFR can be found here.