PHMSA Responds to AGA’s Petitions on the Plastic Pipe Regulation

In March 2019, PHMSA responded to AGA’s petition which asked PHMSA to revise implementation timeframes for Category 1 fittings that were not readily available and grant operators additional time to update existing procedures, train and qualify personnel, revise purchasing specifications and material installation instructions, and to implement new programs. In their response, PHMSA proposed alternate timeframes which generally aligned with AGA’s recommendations.

In August 2019, AGA also filed a second petition with PHMSA to consider the use of alternate heat fusion standards. In its letter to PHMSA, AGA noted that while the preamble of the final regulation allows operators to use alternate procedures (if an operator can demonstrate any differences are sound and provide an equivalent or superior level of safety compared to ASTM F2620-12), the actual rule language doesn’t appear to provide an option for the use of alternative procedures. This could be interpreted to mean that other qualified procedures are no longer acceptable, and could require each operator to spend many hours to re-train employees and re-qualify joining procedures in order to implement these changes into their PE pipe and fitting operating procedures.

In March 2020, PHMSA provided an updated response to AGA’s petitions and addressed ongoing concerns with procuring Category 1 fittings, as well as AGA’s petition on allowing alternate fusion standards to be considered within the scope of the final plastic pipe regulation.

In their response PHMSA noted that it is “not intending to enforce the requirements of §§192.281 (e)(3) or 192.281 (e)(4) for joints between metallic and plastic pipe with a nominal pipe size of 4 or greater until August 31, 2020, and recommends States do the same.” PHMSA also clarified that “in the interim until a rulemaking is proposed and ultimately finalized, PHMSA is planning to enforce this requirement [for fusion standards] consistent with the language in the preamble and recommends States do the same.”