Spanning over 500,000 miles collectively, liquid and gas transmission pipelines transport oil, natural gas, and petroleum products across the U.S., seamlessly and discreetly fueling our nation’s economy and way of life. Their role is indispensable in connecting producing areas to refineries and chemical plants and delivering the energy products that consumers and businesses need. Equally important, they exemplify the industry’s commitment to efficiency, sustainability, and—arguably most importantly—safety.

As part of our commitment to a zero-incident safety culture, the American Petroleum Institute (API) continues to advance these principles through the development of industry standards and good practices. For example, API recently published API Recommended Practice 1185 (RP 1185), Pipeline Public Engagement, which establishes comprehensive guidelines for enhancing public engagement throughout the lifecycle of a pipeline. RP 1185 builds off the guidance established in API RP 1173, Pipeline Safety Management Systems, which provides pipeline operators with the framework to develop and implement safety management systems to identify and manage risk and continuously improve pipeline safety.

Flexible by Design

While community engagement has long been a part of pipeline projects, the absence of formal guidance left room for inconsistencies in execution and effectiveness. RP 1185 addresses these gaps by providing a scalable and flexible framework that can be adapted based on the pipeline’s type, size, and location, as well as the existing programs in place. This framework is designed to help establish proactive, inclusive, and collaborative engagement, urging operators to engage with communities, especially those historically underrepresented due to economic, cultural, racial, or health-related disparities. It outlines detailed guidelines and good practices for pipeline operators to build upon existing programs or establish and implement new stakeholder engagement processes, ensuring a process that benefits all stakeholders.

Group Effort

The creation of RP 1185 itself was truly a collaborative effort, involving representatives from the natural gas and oil industry, government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels, including Tribal governments, and public interest groups, along with community leaders. Incorporating these diverse perspectives and feedback exemplifies the collaborative approach needed in modern pipeline projects.

“The public members who helped draft this RP were grateful for the way the industry and government stakeholders involved and embraced the balanced makeup of the group, and the hard work that went into correctly identifying the need for two-way communication that recognizes the diversity of all those who seek information or desire to be included in pipeline safety discussions,” said Pipeline Safety Trust Special Advisor Carl Weimer. “We are very happy with the language and emphasis of the document, and will help however we can to ensure that implementation lives up to the agreed upon and important core principles and basic engagement elements.”

Focus on Implementation

With the collaborative foundation of RP 1185 firmly established, companies are now turning their focus to implementation. This begins with a comprehensive internal evaluation and alignment of existing practices with the standard’s requirements (implementation will look different for each company, depending on their size and operations). Leadership buy-in is essential; a top-down approach helps foster a culture of engagement, which is critical for success. Additional steps include conducting gap analyses and educating personnel about the standard’s foundation of openness, transparency, and inclusiveness.

While the standard’s appendix offers helpful guidance for effectuating engagement, additional resources and support are available at By promoting proactive, inclusive, and collaborative engagement, RP 1185 establishes a new framework for responsible pipeline development and operations throughout all lifecycle stages. However, the publication of RP 1185 is only the beginning of a longer implementation journey. As companies begin implementing these recommendations and enhancing their public engagement programs, the document will play a key role in helping to advance the long-term sustainability and acceptance of pipeline projects.