Governor Signs Pipeline Notice Law Directing Consumers to NPMS Website Maps
The pipeline notice requirement in AB 1511 received broad support from California’s real estate and hazard disclosure industries and lawmakers alike. It establishes the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) on the U.S. Department of Transportation website as the standard reference for pipeline location information for California real estate consumers – and the benchmark for pipeline maps in the hazard disclosure industry.
This week Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 1511 (Bradford). Modeled after the “Megan’s Law Database Disclosure”, the AB 1511 adds a consumer notification to the residential purchase contract, effective July 1, 2013, titled “Notice Regarding Gas and Hazardous Liquid Transmission Pipelines.” The notice directs home buyers to the NPMS “Public MAP Viewer” — an online portal that displays neighborhood maps showing gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipelines and identifies the pipeline owners and operators.
Supporting the official designation of NPMS maps for consumer use were the California Association of REALTORS® and the state’s top hazard disclosure providers — First American Real Estate Disclosures (FANHD and JCP-LGS), Property I.D., and Disclosure Source. The pipeline notice bill had no known opposition and was passed unanimously by both houses of the Legislature.
FANHD and JCP-LGS have relied upon the NPMS Public MAP Viewer since 2010 as the authoritative map source for the pipeline proximity disclosure in their environmental hazard disclosure reports.
No Excuse for Awareness
Like the Megan’s Law disclosure, the pipeline notification law limits the duty of the seller and broker to informing the buyer of the existence of the NPMS map database. However, those two laws are clear that both the seller and broker have a duty to disclose material facts under California law. Providing the notice of the existence of the database does not insulate either the seller or the broker from otherwise disclosing material facts of which either is aware.
During hearings on the bill, the Assembly Judiciary Committee heard testimony about “deep concerns” for the impossible situation that agents may find themselves in if their client has a letter from the utility disclosing a nearby pipeline — a letter that has given them what they think is actual knowledge of a material fact that they want to be able to disclose but which they are not sure how to disclose and discharge that liability. Millions of California homeowners are in just that situation, in receipt of a letter from a major gas utility company disclosing a nearby transmission pipeline.
Where a property owner received that “letter from the utility”, sellers, agents and brokers can be protected by using a third-party disclosure report that expressly notifies the buyer of transmission pipelines near the property, because this transfers to the NHD provider the liability for making that disclosure.
FANHD and JCP-LGS provide the transmission pipeline proximity disclosure as a customary feature in their “Industry Standard Report”. This product is an option for sellers and their agents who seek the highest quality in hazard disclosure. This parcel-specific disclosure relies on pipeline locations as depicted on the NPMS website — now the benchmark for pipeline information for California consumers.
As always, consult your company's legal counsel or the California Association of REALTORS® Legal Hotline for an interpretation of any new law. This web page is for information only and should not be construed as legal advice.