What government agencies are responsible for regulating gas and hazardous liquid pipelines in Arizona to ensure public safety and system reliability?
The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) has authority under state law to oversee the construction, operation and maintenance of intrastate pipelines – basically those pipelines that begin and end within Arizona’s borders, such as those operated by Southwest Gas, UniSource Natural Gas, and various municipal systems. The ACC exercises its authority over these and other intrastate pipeline operators by administering and enforcing Arizona’s Pipeline Safety Rules (http://apps.azsos.gov/public_services/Title_14/14-05.pdf). This is the primary function of ACC’s Pipeline Safety Section, which in accordance with the rules, conducts regular inspections of intrastate systems and also performs specialized and construction inspections. If Pipeline Safety Section inspectors discover a safety violation, the staff can take the necessary steps to see that the violation is corrected – up to and including recommending fines against the operator.
Under federal pipeline safety laws, the United States Department of Transportation (US DOT), Office of Pipeline Safety, has exclusive regulatory authority over pipelines that are defined as interstate pipelines – those pipelines used to transport gas and hazardous liquids across state lines throughout the nation. In Arizona, interstate pipelines include natural gas facilities operated by El Paso Natural Gas, Questar and Transwestern, and liquid fuel lines operated by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners. Federal pipeline safety laws preempt any state from regulating interstate pipeline safety. Accordingly, only the USDOT may impose sanctions against interstate operators for violating federal pipeline safety regulations.