March 17, 2017 - AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today filed a petition for review of a final rule imposed by the federal Department of Transportation's Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The rule, which took effect on January 18, 2017, creates new safety standards for underground natural storage facilities, overriding the Texas Railroad Commission’s (RRC) authority.
Without completing any notice or comment period, the PHMSA unilaterally and impermissibly converted the American Petroleum Institute’s non-mandatory recommendation into mandatory provision. In his petition for review, Attorney General Paxton argues that the PHMSA stripped Texas and other states of authority over intrastate and interstate underground natural gas facilities, which erodes a traditional state regulatory role over intrastate facilities.
“Despite state laws and programs that regulate these facilities with respect to conservation, environmental protection and protection of property rights, the PHMSA effectively stripped the States of authority over their own natural gas facilities and completely disregarded traditional state regulatory roles,” said Attorney General Paxton. “My office does not tolerate government overreach, and will not allow a rule as arbitrary and capricious as this to stand.”
According to the RRC, there are 18 active facilities in Texas that store natural gas in salt caverns, and 13 active facilities that store natural gas underground in depleted reservoirs. The RRC has regulated underground gas storage facilities for over 30 years, but the final rule requires them to petition the PHMSA to obtain delegations, which would require the RRC to fully adopt PHMS’s regulation.