Current pipeline regulations in North America have changed significantly over the past several decades and will continue to change as public and regulatory scrutiny intensifies and new industry standards are developed (i.e. API RP 1173). As regulators assess the approach to take, they are increasingly looking at what other regulators are doing in their respective jurisdictions, including those at federal, state and provincial levels.

Despite historical commitments to conceptual models fostering cooperation between regulators and regulated entities, recent trends in the United States signify a departure from performance or outcome-based regulation toward a more prescriptive approach. Pipelines remain the safest method of transporting oil and natural gas.1 However, when pipeline incidents do occur, the consequences can be catastrophic and are often well publicized. Federal and state regulators are under increased pressure in the aftermath of high-profile incidents to assuage the concerns of legislators and the public at large.

This paper generally compares various regulatory models and the relative benefits and drawbacks of each. A more in-depth review of regulatory changes in the United States is examined, to analyze the potential intended and unintended consequences of the move towards more prescriptive pipeline safety regulations.

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