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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation P-96-002
Details
Synopsis: ABOUT 6:45 P.M. ON 6/9/94, A 2-INCH-DIAMETER STEEL GAS SERVICE LINE THAT HAD BEEN EXPOSED DURING EXCAVATION SEPARATED AT A COMPRESSION COUPLING ABOUT 5 FEET FROM THE NORTH WALL OF JOHN T. GROSS TOWERS, AN EIGHT-STORY RETIREMENT HOME OPERATED BY THE ALLENTOWN HOUSING AUTHORITY AT ALLENTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA. THE FAILED UGI UTILITIES, INC,. (UGI) SERVICE LINE RELEASED NATAURAL GAS AT 55 PSIG PRESSURE, & THE ESCAPING GAS FLOWED UNDERGROUND TO GROSS TOWERS. THE GAS PASSED THROUGH OPENINGS IN THE BUILDING FOUNDATION, ENTERED THE MECHANICAL ROOM THROUGH FLOOR VENTS, & MIGRATED TO OTHER BUILDING FLOORS.
Recommendation: THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE RSPA : REQUIRE GAS-DISTRIBUTION OPERATOR TO NOTIFY ALL CUSTOMERS OF THE AVAILABILITY OF EXCESS FLOW VALVES; ANY CUSTOMER TO BE SERVED BY A NEW OR RENEWED SERVICE LINE WITH OPERATING PARAMETERS THAT ARE COMPATIBLE WITH ANY COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE EXCESS FLOW VALVE SHOULD BE NOTIFIED; AN OPERATOR SHOULD NOT REFUSE TO NOTIFY A CUSTOMER BECAUSE OF THE CUSTOMER'S CLASSIFICATION OR THE DIAMETER OR OPERATING PRESSURE OF THE SERVICE LINE
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Unacceptable Action
Mode: Pipeline
Location: Allentown, PA, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA94MP003
Accident Reports:
UGI Utilities, Inc., Natural Gas Distribution Pipeline Explosion and Fire
Report #: PAR-96-01
Accident Date: 6/9/1994
Issue Date: 3/6/1996
Date Closed: 10/6/1998
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: RSPA (Closed - Unacceptable Action)
Keyword(s): Excess Flow Valves

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: RSPA
Date: 10/6/1998
Response: THE BOARD IS DISAPPOINTED THAT RSPA'S FINAL RULE, PUBLISHED 2/3/98, IS VIRTUALLY IDENTICAL TO THE PROPOSED RULE THAT THE BOARD VOICED CONCERN ABOUT ON 1/2/97. THE BOARD CLASSIFIED P-92-2 "OPEN--UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE" BECAUSE THE RSPA PROPOSED RULE & NOTIFICATION PROPOSAL RESTRICTED EFV USE TO SYSTEMS IN WHICH THE GAS PRESSURE IS ALWAYS AT OR ABOVE 10 PSIG, EVEN THOUGH SOME EFVS OPERATE SATISFACTORILY AT LOWER PRESSURES, & BECAUSE IT ALSO LIMITED NOTIFICATIONS BY GAS OPERATORS TO RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMERS, EVEN THOUGH HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF COMMERCIAL SERVICE LINES HAVE OPERATING CHARACTERISTICS COMPATIBLE WITH THE SAME EFVS THAT WILL BE INSTALLED IN RESIDENTIAL SERVICE LINES. BECAUSE THIS IS A FINAL RULE & RSPA HAS NOT TAKEN ACTION AS REQUESTED, P-96-2 HAS BEEN CLASSIFIED "CLOSED--UNACCEPTABLE ACTION."

From: RSPA
To: NTSB
Date: 7/10/1998
Response: (Letter Mail Controlled 7/14/98 3:09:39 PM MC# 980876) RSPA BELIEVES THAT THE RECENT FINAL RULE SATISFIES THIS RECOMMENDATION & IT SHOULD BE CLOSED--ACCEPTABLE ACTION. FINAL RULE IS "EXCESS FLOW VALVES," PUBLISHED ON 2/3/98, 63 FR 5464, WHICH REQUIRES OPERATORS OF NATURAL GAS DISTRIBUTION SYSTEMS TO PROVIDE WRITTEN NOTICE TO CUSTOMERS OF NEW & REPLACE SINGLE-RESIDENCE SERVICE LINES OF THE AVAILABILITY OF EFVS THAT MEET DOT-PRESCRIBED PERFORMANCE STANDARDS,THE SAFETY BENEFITS OF THE VALVES, & COSTS OF INSTALLATION. IF A CUSTOMER REQUESTS INSTALLATION, THE OPERATOR IS REQUIRED TO INSTALL THE EFV WITH THE CUSTOMER PAYING ALL OF THE COSTS OF INSTALLATION. THE FINAL RULE COVERS SINGLE-RESIDENCES OPERATING AT NOT LESS THAN 10PSIG (NOT THE 5PSIG NTSB SUGGESTED IN ITS COMMENTS ON THE NPRM). NTSB ALSO REQUESTED THAT RSPA REQUIRE TO NOTIFY CUSTOMERS WITH SERVICE LINES THAT HAVE OPERATING PARAMETER COMPATIBLE WITH ANY COMMERCIALLY AVAILBLE EFV. RSPA FEELS THIS IS IMPRACTICAL DUE TO LACK OF RECORDS LACK OF DATA, ECONOMICS, & THE UNLIKELYHOOD A CUSTOMER WOULD BE WILLING TO PAY FOR THE EFV. RSPA DOES "ENCOURAGE" OPERATORS TO CONSIDER NOTIFYING ALL SINGLE-RESIDENT CUSTOMERS. NTSB COMMENTED THAT THE CUSTOMER SHOULD NOT BE REQUIRED TO COVER TH TOTAL COST TO FIT A EFV, & RSPA DISAGREES THAT THE CUSTOMER SHOULD PAY FOR THE FIT/RETROFIT. NTSB ALSO COMMENTED ON THE FINAL RULE THAT THE HOME OWNER NOT THE CONTRACTOR/BUILDER SHOULD MAKE THE DECISION ON THE INSTALLATION OF THE EFV, RSPA AMENDED THE FINAL RULE TO READ THAT THE "SERVICE LINE CUSTOMER" SHOULD BE NOTIFIED OF THE EFV. NTSB COMMENTED ON THE FINAL RULE THAT MORE THAN 1-YEAR WAS NEEDED FOR COMPLIANCE WITH THE NEW REGULATION, RSPA FEELS 1-YEAR IS MORE THAN ADEQUATE. IN CONCLUSION, RSPA FEELS THE FINAL RULE ADEQUATELY ADDRESS THE SINGLE-RESIDENT SERVICE LINE EFVS & WANTS P-96-TO BE CAA.

From: NTSB
To: RSPA
Date: 10/31/1997
Response: NTSB REQUESTED A FOLLOWUP ON THIS DATE 10/31/97.

From: NTSB
To: RSPA
Date: 1/2/1997
Response: P-96-2 WAS ISSUED AS A RESULT OF THE BOARD'S INVESTTIGATION OF THE UGI UTILITIES, INC., NATURAL GAS DISTRIBUTION PIPELINE EXPLOSION & FIRE IN ALLENTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA, ON 6/9/94. THE RECOMMENDATION URGED RSPA TO RQUIRE GAS-DISTRIBUTION OPERATORS TO NOTIFY ALL CUSTOMERS OF THE AVAILABILITY OF EXCESS FLOW VALVES (EFVS). IT FURTHER STATED THAT ANY CUSTOMER TO BE SERVED BY A NEW OR RENEWED SERVICE LINE WITH OPERATING PARAMETERS THAT ARE COMPATIBLE WITH ANY COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE EFV SHOULD BE NOTIFIED & AN OPERATOR SHOULD NOT REFUSE TO NOTIFY A CUSTOMER BECAUSE OF THE CUSTOMER'S CLASSIFICATION OR THE DIAMETER OR OPERATING PRESSURE OF THE SERVICE LINE. SINCE ISSUING THE RECOMMENDATION, THE BOARD HAS REVIEWED BOTH YOUR FINAL RULE, "EXCESS FLOW VALVES - PERFORMANCE STANDARDS" (61 FR 31449), WHICH ESTABLISHED STANDARDS ON THE PERFORMANCE OF EFVS, & YOUR EFV NOTIFICATION NPRM "EXCESS FLOW VALVES - CUSTOMER NOTIFICATION" (61 FR 33476). NEITHER ACTION RESPONDED FULLY TO P-96-2. THE PERFORMANCE STANDARDS FAIL TO RECOGNIZE THE EXISTENCE OF JULY 1995 MSS STANDARD SP-115, "EXCESS FLOW VALVES FOR NATURAL GAS SERVICE," & THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERS' TENTATIVE STANDARD ON THE TESTING OF EFVS BY MANUFACTURERS. NEITHER STANDARD RECOGNIZES THE TYPE OF CUSTOMER, RESIDENTIAL OR COMMERCIAL, AS A LIMITING FACTOR. THE MSS STANDARD DOES RECOGNIZE THE USE OF EFVS IN SERVICE LINES THAT OPERATE AS LOW AS 5 PSIG PRESSURE. THE FINAL RUEL & THE NOTIFICATIOIN PROPOSAL RESTRICT EFV USE TO SYSTEMS IN WHICH THE GAS PRESSURE IS ALWAYS ALWAY AT OR ABOVE 10 PSIG PRESSURE, EVEN THOUGH SOME EFVS OPERATE SATISFACTORILY AT LOWER PRESSURES, & THEY ALSO LIMIT NOTIFICATION BY GAS OPERATORS TO RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMERS, EVEN THOUGH HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF COMMERCIAL SERVICE LINES HAVE OPERATING CHARACTERISTICS COMPATIBLE WITH THE SAME EFVS THAT WILL BE INSTALLED IN RESIDENTIAL SERVICE LINES. CONSEQUENTLY, THE BOARD HAS CLASSIFIED P-96-2 "OPEN--UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE."

From: NTSB
To: RSPA
Date: 8/27/1996
Response: Notation 6730: The National Transportation Safety Board has reviewed the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), ~Excess Flow Valve-Customer Notification" (Docket No. PS-118A, Notice 1) and is pleased that the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) has initiated the rulemaking mandated by Public Law 92-508 (October 24, 1992). Section 104 of that law requires that the Secretary of Transportation, not later than 2 years after enactment, ~issue regulations requiring operators of natural gas distribution systems to notify, in writing, their customers with lines in which excess flow valves are not required by law, but can be installed in accordance with performance standards" prescribed by the Secretary. That statutory requirement placed no limits on the operating pressure or the type of customer. Nevertheless, on June 14, 1996, RSPA issued a final rule, ~Excess Flow Valve-Performance Standards" (Docket No. PS-118, Amendment 192-79) that severely restricts the excess flow valve (EFV) notification requirement by establishing application limits on both line pressure and type of customer. In its report on a pipeline explosion and fire at Allentown, Pennsylvania, on June 9, 1994, the Safety Board urged RSPA not to address factors such as service-line diameter, operating pressure, or type of customer. The Safety Board cautioned that addressing such factors would be inappropriate, especially in instances in which the operating parameters of commercial and residential service lines are similar and can be protected using the same style or model of EFV. Safety Recommendation P-96-2 asked RSPA to require notice of the availability of EFVs to all customers to be served by a new or renewed service line with operating parameters that are compatible with any commercially available EFV. The NPRM is not consistent with this recommendation or with the July 1995 MSS Standard SP-1l5, ~Excess Flow Valves for Natural Gas Service." The Safety Board urges RSPA to expeditiously issue a proposal requiring notice of EFVs to all customers whose new or renewed service lines have performance parameters consistent with commercially available EFVs or at a minimum, compatible with the operating parameters of MSS Standard SP-115. With respect to the NPRM, the Safety Board offers the following comments: 1. Paragraph 192.383(a} limits the notification requirement to new and renewed service lines "that operate continuously throughout the year at a pressure not less than 10 psig." However, EFVs designed to operate at pressures as low as 5 psig are commercially available, and these EFVs should be made available to customers who desire to purchase them. Also, RSPA should consider it appropriate to use EFVs in service lines in which the pressure may occasionally fall below 10 psig. If pressure falls below 10 psig, gas flow to the customer will not be interrupted, even though the EFV may not function as designed to stop excess gas flow due to a line rupture. More importantly, the EFV will provide the desired protection at all times the pressure is 10 psig or more. The Safety Board knows of no reason to deny customers protection because the gas system pressure may occasionally fall to less than 10 psig. Nor should an operator be able to avoid compliance with the notification requirement by lowering the system pressure to less than 10 psig once a year. 2. Paragraph 192.383 (a) (3) requires customers to be notified that they must bear the direct costs of installing or replacing (emphasis added) EFVs. The proposal that customers bear replacement costs is inconsistent with the discussion at 61 FR 33478 under the heading "Cost associated with installation." In denying the American Gas Association's petition related to costs borne by the customer, RSPA stated that it recognizes the rationale for the notification requirement, that is, to afford customers a readily available extra safety protection. To ensure that operators do not impose prohibitive costs, RSPA proposed that operators be limited to recouping only the direct costs of installation. In fact, the two largest users of EFVs have not experienced a design related EFV failure in the more than 20 years they have been using EFVs. Thus, their experience does not support inclusion of a reference to replacement costs in 192.383(a) (3), and the Safety Board believes the reference should be deleted. 3. RSPA's definition of the term "service line customer" is unacceptable because it does not allow persons at risk to decide whether an EFV should be installed. In new housing subdivisions where service has not yet been established, RSPA proposes allowing gas system operators to notify home builders, in lieu of homeowners, of the availability of EFVs. In other words, home buyers, who have an incentive to pay EFV installation costs because their family's safety is at risk, would have no part in the decision. Instead, home builders, who have no incentive to pay such costs because their safety is not at risk, would determine whether an EFV is installed. The Safety Board agrees that renters who are gas customers should be given the opportunity to have EFVs installed. Nonetheless, we believe that gas operators have an even greater responsibility to provide building owners with an opportunity to have EFVs installed. Building owners are more likely to pay the EFV installation costs because their exposure to the risk of gas accidents is for the life of the building, not just the term of the lease. We believe it would be more appropriate to require notice to both renters and the owners of the rented buildings. 4. Paragraph 192.383 (c) allows gas operators a full year after the rule becomes final before customers have to be notified of EFV availability. RSPA states that "one year should be adequate time for operators to learn which customers to notify, to draft notices, and to instruct personnel to handle inquiries." The Safety Board notes that the industry is familiar with the EFV issue, EFVs are commercially available throughout the Nation, and that industry associations are already developing guidance to help operators draft appropriate notices for customers. Further, RSPA probably will not issue a final rule for at least 3 months after the end of the comment period. Therefore, the Safety Board does not believe operators should delay issuing notifications to customers any longer than 6 months after the final rule is promulgated. This period should give the industry more than adequate time to prepare for compliance. The comment issuance Safety Board is on this NPRM of a final rule pleased to have the opportunity to and encourages RSPA to expedite that incorporates our comments.

From: RSPA
To: NTSB
Date: 8/7/1996
Response: "RSPA IS CLOSE TO TAKING REGULATORY ACTION TO NOTIFY RESIDENTIAL GAS CUSTOMERS OF EFV AVAILABILITY." RSPA PUBLISHED AN NPRM ON 6/27/96, TITLED "EXCESS FLOW VALVES-CUSTOMER NOTIFICATION." RSPA ALSO PUBLISHED A FINAL RULE ON 6/20/96, ESTABLISHING PERFORMANCE STANDARDS FOR EFVS.

From: NTSB
To: RSPA
Date:
Response: At the 1990 Board meeting addressing the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements (MWL), the Board voted to place Safety Recommendations P-90-6 and P-90-12 on the MWL under the issue category “Pipeline Excess Flow Valve Installation.” Safety Recommendations P-25-24, P-96-2, P-96-3, and P-96-30 were added at later dates. In May 1997, this category’s name was changed to “Excavative Damage Protection to Underground Facilities.” This issue was removed from the MWL in 2002.