Does the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act (NGPSA) preempt Cal OSHA from exercising jurisdiction over the safety and health of employees working on a natural gas pipeline in California which is part of an interstate network?

The Division cited Employer at its place of employment in California for alleged violations of safety orders found in Title 8 California Code of Regulations. In addition to appealing the violations, Employer also questioned whether the Board’s jurisdiction was preempted by the NGPSA.

The Board was faced with a parallel situation in another appeal filed by the same Employer in circumstances very similar to those of his case. The matter was decided by the Board and appealed to the courts, resulting in the decision of the second appellate district in Southern California Gas Company v. Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board, (1997) 58 Cal.App.4th 200, review denied, Jan. 28, 1998.

In both cases the work being performed was on a natural gas pipeline that was part of an interstate network. The appellate court reviewed the provisions of the NGPSA and concluded that the California regulation was preempted. Specifically, the court said "[w]e find that it was the ‘clear and manifest purpose of Congress’ to occupy the field of interstate natural gas pipeline safety, in the broadest sense possible. . . . Since Congress has fully occupied the field of natural gas pipeline safety, there is no room for state supplementary regulation, even if there is no conflict with any given provision."

Given the similarity of the facts presented in this case to those of Southern California Gas, the broad and explicit language of the NGPSA, the extensive and detailed regulatory scheme adopted by the Secretary of Transportation, and the case law which has developed under the NGPSA, the Board concluded that the Division was preempted from enforcing the Title 8 safety orders to the facts at hand.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GAS CO., 94-586 (for full decision click here)