Pipeline safety laws fall under federal authority in Title 49, United States Code. U.S. Code chapter 601, Safety, of Title 49 establishes the framework for promoting pipeline safety via federal authority for regulation of interstate pipeline facilities and federal delegation to the states for all or part of the responsibility for intrastate pipeline facilities under an annual certification or agreement. This law empowers the Iowa Utilities Board to obtain a certification from the federal government to regulate gas pipeline safety for intrastate natural gas operators. The Board's Safety and Engineering Section enforces pipeline safety rules contained in the federal regulations at 49 CFR parts 191, 192, 193, and 199 as well as state regulations at 199 Iowa Administrative Code chapter 10, Intrastate Gas and Underground Gas Storage and chapter 19, Service Supplied by Gas Utilities.
The Safety and Engineering Section inspects 57 natural gas distribution system operators, 3 LPG distribution system operators, and 41 intrastate and 5 interstate natural gas transmission pipeline operators for compliance with pipeline safety standards. The inspections ensure that gas operators are in compliance with the federal and state pipeline safety standards. The Safety and Engineering Section works closely with the federal U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), to insure pipelines are safely operated and maintained.
Searching for Inspection Reports
Inspection reports and utility responses are on file in the Board’s electronic filing system (EFS). Inspection reports and responses are filed in each company's natural gas reports (RG) docket. To search for these documents, click the EFS link, select Search from the top navigation menu and scroll down to Docket Search. This will open a docket search screen. Select RG - Reports, Natural Gas from the Docket Type drop down box and then select the company name from the Participants drop down box. Be sure to click the Add button to add the company to the search parameters. After entering the search terms, click the Search button. This will display the company's RG-Docket Summary Page. Finally, click on the Documents in EFS link to display the list of documents on file for that company.
Transportation of Natural Gas
Statistics indicate that transporting natural gas through pipelines is the safest mode of transportation. As long as natural gas flows through a closed controlled system, it remains a safe product. Only when gas unexpectedly escapes from a pipeline does it have the potential to be a hazard to life, property, and the environment. There are many causes and contributors to pipeline failures. The federal Office of Pipeline Safety compiles data on pipeline accidents and their causes. This data generally indicates that "outside force" damage is the largest single specified cause of all pipeline accidents. Outside force damage generally occurs when someone is digging or excavating near the pipeline. Other causes of pipeline accidents and incidents are categorized and include:
- Construction errors
- Material defects
- Pipeline corrosion, both internal and external
- Operator error (incorrect operation by operator personnel)
- Malfunction of control systems or relief equipment
Searching for Incident Reports
Incident (or accident) reports are on file in the Board’s electronic filing system (EFS). Incident reports are filed in each company's accidents and outages (H) docket. To search for an incident report, click the EFS link, select Search from the top navigation menu and scroll down to Docket Search. This will open a docket search screen. Select H - Accident -- Outages from the Docket Type drop down box and then select the company name from the Participants drop down box. Be sure to click the Add button to add the company to the search parameters. To narrow the search to natural gas service incidents only, click Gas in the Industry Type box. After entering the search terms, click the Search button. This will display the company's H-Docket Summary Page. Finally, click on the Documents in EFS link to display the list of documents on file in that company's H-Docket.
One Call Underground Locate Service
To avoid a potential pipeline accident caused by excavation, have the location of all utility lines marked before excavating by hand or with equipment. In fact, to comply with Iowa law, in accordance with Iowa Code chapter 480, Underground Facilities Information, a person must contact Iowa One Call at 811 or 1-800-292-8989 a minimum of two days before excavation commences. After Iowa One Call is contacted, the following will happen.
- Operators with underground facilities in the area where the excavation is planned are notified. This includes natural gas and power utilities, communications companies, and cities and towns.
- Within 48 hours after being contacted, utilities either mark their underground facilities with color-coded paint marks or flags, or tell the excavator they have no lines in the area.
If a contractor is performing the excavation work, a person should make sure that the contractor calls Iowa One Call two days prior to the commencement of excavating.
Pipeline Safety Program Contact Information:
Manager, Safety and Engineering Section
Iowa Utilities Board
Media Inquiries Contact Information:
Iowa Utilities Board
PHMSA Safety Performance Listings by State