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Overview of Federal Regulation—Oil Pipeline Regulation Under the Interstate Commerce Act and the Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Act

Michele F. Joy, Oil and Natural Gas Pipelines: Wellhead to End User (1995)

The purpose of this paper is to provide general background on oil pipeline regulation and the principal federal statutes governing oil pipelines. Others will later provide more detail on the application of these statutes by the governing regulatory agency.

Like most energy industries in this country, federal rules and regulations permeate all aspects of oil pipeline operations. This paper, however, will address only those laws that are unique to oil pipelines.



Oil pipelines were made subject to certain provisions in Part I of the Interstate Commerce Act (“ICA”) through enactment of the Hepburn Amendment in 1906.1 The principal purpose of the Amendment was to protect independent crude producers from exploitation by the Standard Oil Company. Stemming in part from this legislative action, the Standard Oil Company was broken up. Today, there are approximately 120 interstate oil pipeline companies transporting crude oil, petroleum products or both. Roughly half of the regulated companies are independently owned; that is to say, are not a subsidiary of a vertically integrated company. See Attachment 1 for a brochure generally describing the industry.

Until 1977, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) exercised economic regulation over oil pipelines. In that year, the Department of Energy Organization