ONEOK applauds halt to federal inspection of Kansas plant
BY ROD WALTON World Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
12/12/12 at 2:50 AM
ONEOK Partners LP on Tuesday applauded a judge's decision to stop a federal agency's inspection of the Tulsa-based company's natural gas liquids fractionation plant in Bushton, Kan.
U.S. District Judge James Payne ordered the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to discontinue the inspection, which was supposed to have started Monday.
ONEOK Partners and PHMSA are fighting in Tulsa federal court over whether the agency has jurisdiction to inspect the facility.
"We are pleased with U.S. District Judge Payne's order to discontinue PHMSA's inspection of the Bushton plant," ONEOK Partners spokeswoman Megan Lewis said. "According to the order, the inspection is delayed pending Judge Payne's ruling on any objections to the recommendation made on Friday to deny our motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction."
U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank H. McCarthy last week recommended that the court deny ONEOK Partners' motion for a temporary restraining order. He said the planned Monday inspection would not harm the company's legal position because no potential notices of violation could come out before the court battle was decided.
Payne, however, said court rules allow ONEOK Partners 14 days to file objections to the recommendation.
"Accordingly, it is hereby ordered that the inspection of the Bushton plant, which is the subject of ONEOK's motions, be discontinued immediately," Payne's order stated.
PHMSA inspectors had arrived at Bushton and were meeting with ONEOK representatives when Payne issued the order, Lewis said. The agency agreed to meet at another site Tuesday and inspect pipelines into and out of the plant.
"They are currently reviewing records and may conduct a field inspection later this week," she said.
ONEOK Partners and PHMSA have disputed the jurisdictional issue since at least August 2011. Court documents indicate the Bushton plant was designed and constructed according to standards of process piping rather than pipeline standards.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Environmental Protection Agency already oversee the Bushton plant, ONEOK Partners noted. The company also argued that PHMSA has jurisdiction only over pipelines going into and out of the fractionation plant.
Original Print Headline: ONEOK cheers halt to plant's inspection
Rod Walton 918-581-8457
The ONEOK Inc. headquarters building is in downtown Tulsa. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World file