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June 13, 2013

Do gathering lines in New York have to be odorized?

The New York Public Service Commission (“PSC”) certainly believes that they do and relies on section 255 of its regulations which require that gas transported within gas transmission and distribution mains meeting a certain pressure threshold “be adequately odorized . . . so as to render it readily detectable by the public and employees of the operator at all gas concentrations of one fifth of the lower explosive limit and above.” Violations of section 255 carry a fine of up to $100,000 per offense per day. The PSC also takes the odorization requirement very seriously. Today’s PSC session is a sure confirmation of this stance. During today’s session, Staff recommended that the PSC reject an operator’s proposed alternatives, including line markers, increased leakage surveys, volume/pressure monitoring, and methane monitors. Staff also recommended that that the PSC commence an enforcement action against the operator in state court. The PSC adopted staff’s recommendations by a unanimous 4-0 vote. In doing so, Chairman Brown highlighted the importance of odorization and strongly encouraged compliance with the odorization requirement. Similar comments were echoed by Commissioners Acampora, Larocca and Sayre. PSC’s hardened stance on its odorization requirement, both in terms of its applicability to gathering lines and in rejecting alternatives, should stand as a strong warning to midstream operators in New York. It also raises a potential conundrum for existing gathering lines already connected to, or proposed gathering lines that will be connected to, an interstate pipeline that does accept odorized gas.  

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