Tuesday, January 4, 2011

U.S. DOT releases report on risk-based land use planning around pipelines - future restrictions are coming

Partnering to Further Enhance Pipeline Safety In Communities Through Risk-Informed Land Use Planning

Final Report of Recommended Practices

November 2010

The U.S. Department of Transportation has released a report prepared by the Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance (PIPA) on the subject of "risk-informed" land use planning around pipelines.  The Report notes that fixed setback requirements from pipeline easements may not be appropriate in all cases.  However, it is accepted that pipelines may pose risks that impact people and property beyond the edge of the pipeline easement or right-of-way:
Transmission pipeline failures present risks that may impact people and property beyond the edge of pipeline rights-of-way (ROW). To address these risks, some communities have imposed zoning restrictions, including fixed-distance building setbacks for development along transmission pipeline ROW. Building setbacks are typically used by local governments to provide separation between the community and potential risks, in this case pipelines. However, fixed-distance setbacks commonly don’t consider the risks involved with a specific pipeline and the physical environment in which the pipeline operates. Individual transmission pipelines differ in character – some are large-diameter, high-pressure, cross-country pipelines traversing mostly rural areas, while others are located in urban areas and densely-populated urban centers. Transmission pipelines operated within urban areas may be located underneath public streets and roadways in areas that are already well-developed. Federal regulations attempt to mitigate the risk of transmission pipelines located in more densely-populated areas by imposing more stringent requirements. For example, gas transmission pipelines located in heavily populated urban areas are generally required to adhere to additional design, operation, and maintenance requirements. However, each situation is unique relative to the pipeline characteristics and the areas surrounding the pipeline ROW. Thus, PIPA recommends that implementing a risk-informed approach to land use planning and development and establishing good communication with the transmission pipeline operator is more appropriate than establishing a fixed-distance setback to be applied in all situations.
One thing seems clear from the report - risks posed by pipelines are of growing concern to governments in the United States.  The manner in which the risks are addressed and managed will have an effect on landowners and land values.  Where measures are imposed to ensure the safety of aging and deteriorating pipelines, the effect is likely to be a restriction of the uses that can be made of a property and a subsequent loss in property value.  Can landowners be compensated for this loss of property value that would not likely have been considered in setting compensation at the time a pipeline company acquired its land rights?  Apart from mentioning that a pipeline company may wish to obtain additional rights from a landowner in exchange for additional compensation, the Report does not address the issue of compensation for risk management-associated land use and development restrictions.

Read the full report at: PIPA-Report-Final-20101117.