Pipeline Safety and Reliability


The natural gas industry operates an extensive system of 2.5 million miles of distribution and transmission pipelines that stretch across the country to provide service to more than 177 million Americans. The design, construction, operation, inspection and maintenance of all operating pipelines are subject to state and federal regulations and requirements. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, pipelines are the safest, most environmentally-friendly and most efficient and reliable mode of transporting natural gas.


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is the federal regulatory agency responsible for the oversight of pipeline safety in the United States.  The pipeline safety regulations apply to all pipelines in the United States. Through annual certifications and agreements, individual states have enforcement responsibility for pipelines within their own state. A state agreement with PHMSA requires a state to adopt and enforce the federal regulations. These states may enforce both the federal regulations and their own regulations, which are consistent with, and at least as strict as, the federal regulations.


Safety is and always will be the natural gas industry’s first priority. Natural gas utilities spend more than $22 billion annually to help enhance the safety of natural gas delivery systems. Natural gas utilities are subject not only to their own stringent internal controls but must also meet rigorous federal and state oversight. Inspections are performed regularly by state regulators to help ensure that compliance is being met. 


All natural gas pipeline operators are required to develop and implement a pipeline safety public awareness program to help educate the public in the vicinity of the pipeline, as well as state and local emergency response personnel, public officials and excavators. Pipeline operators continually review the public awareness materials and distribution methods to help ensure the intended stakeholders are adequately informed and, when possible, collaborative efforts are identified.  


Regulations require natural gas utilities to perform periodic surveys throughout their system. These surveys utilize instruments that can detect the presence of methane and provide information about concentration levels, which help the utility determine the risk posed by the leak. In addition to these surveys, utilities rely on the public to call whenever they suspect a gas leak. Customers should never hesitate to call the local gas utility immediately whenever they suspect a gas leak.


The dedicated efforts of America’s natural gas utilities to upgrade and modernize our nation’s natural gas infrastructure have led to an approximately 40 percent decline in pipeline incidents over the past decade. Annual pipeline accident information is available at PHMSA’s website at www.phmsa.dot.gov