Posts Tagged ‘PHMSA’

Representatives protest PHMSA’s granting of special LNG transport permit

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has granted Energy Transport Solutions LLC of Doral, Fla., a special permit that allows for the transport of liquid natural gas (LNG) on a route from Wyalusing, Pa., to Gibbstown, N.J.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon and U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, both members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, responded with disappointment to the PHMSA announcement Dec. 6.

“News of PHMSA’s decision to jump ahead of its notice of proposed rulemaking on moving LNG by rail and grant a special permit to Energy Transport Solutions, LLC to move LNG by rail tank car is deeply disturbing,” DeFazio said. “This reckless move by the Administration puts communities in harm’s way. For months I have been sounding the alarm on this dangerous plan. Not only has PHMSA failed to take the proper steps of testing, analyzing or reviewing this unprecedented plan, it failed to provide Congress and the public the opportunity to consider whether the permit’s operating conditions sufficiently address the potential safety implications — an opportunity that’s required by law. The agency rushed its job, spending a measly six months considering this petition and the nearly 3,000 public comments it received.

“In June, Congress passed my amendment to prohibit DOT from finalizing the LNG by rail rule that President Trump intends to rush through in 13 months. I urge the Senate to work with us to put a stop to these irresponsible actions.”

Malinowski said the agency has ignored safety concerns expressed by multiple groups.

“The movement of LNG by rail tank car presents unique and substantial risks to public safety and the environment. This decision by the Department of Transportation to allow LNG to move in large volumes without adequate safeguards is irresponsible, and yet another example of the Administration putting corporate interests over the safety of the American public,” he said.

The north-to-south route is about 175 miles. It runs from fracking shale wells in northern Pennsylvania to a port in New Jersey and likely will be served by Norfolk Southern, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The permit expires in November 2021 and allows for no intermediate stops on the route when the LNG is being transported.

Read an article about the permit from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Read the special permit issued by PHMSA.

SMART TD submits comments to PHMSA regarding rail transportation of LNG

On August 8, SMART Transportation Division submitted comments to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) regarding the proposal of transporting liquid natural gas (LNG) by rail.

In our comments, National Legislative Director John Risch recognizes the potential safety hazards associated with the transportation of LNG by rail, but also points out that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has established safety protocols and procedures to transport it safely.

“Recognizing the safety hazards involved and the work FRA safety experts have already done on this issue, we support the transport of LNG by rail provided the conditions imposed by FRA in their November 2, 2015, letter of authority to the Alaska Railroad, and the restrictions contained in the March 3, 2016, letter to the Florida East Coast Railway are imposed,” Risch wrote.

Click here to read our full comments as well as the FRA letters mentioned above.

U.S. House acts to block LNG transport by rail

The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday, June 24, passed an amendment that would block President Donald Trump’s Executive Order in April to the Department of Transportation to fast-track the allowance of liquid natural gas (LNG) to be transported by rail.

“In its never-ending quest to put profit ahead of people, the Trump administration is now trying to bypass long-standing requirements for transportation of LNG by putting it into 100-car trains that roll through densely-populated areas at upwards of 50 miles per hour,” said U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D – Ore.), chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, who introduced the amendment. “This plan is beyond absurd. Should even one tank car get punctured, the results could be devastating. My amendment blocks this brazen attempt by the administration. I urge the Senate to follow suit and stop a massive catastrophe before it’s too late.”

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) moved ahead earlier this month with a plan to authorize six trains, of 100 or more rail tank cars, to move LNG for export through densely populated areas. DeFazio’s amendment would block this special permit as well, which currently is open for comment until July 8.

Read more on this story at Freightwaves.com.

Read an earlier story about the executive order.

DOT repeals ECP brake installation rule leaving people worried

The Bellingham Herald reports that last week the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) decided to repeal a rule that required electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking systems be installed on all oil trains.

The original rule was intended to increase safety and help prevent the derailment and puncturing of cars. DOT’s original analysis of ECP brakes found that they “can reduce the number of cars in a derailment that puncture and release their contents by almost 20 percent compared to other braking technologies.”

With conventional air brakes, the braking message must go through each car individually before moving on to the next car; this process can take up to two minutes for the brake application to reach the back of a freight train. ECP braking uses electronic controls that applies the brakes to all cars consistently and at the same time, providing more control and shortening the stopping distance, which leads to a lower risk of derailment or coupling breakage.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee criticized the repeal, saying in a press release that the decision to repeal is a “reckless disregard for the life and property of all who live or work along the rail tracks.”

“I fear the day we witness a destructive or deadly derailment that could have been prevented with readily available technology,” he said.

The PHMSA cited a reduction in benefits to the rail carriers from $254 million in benefits to businesses and $215 to $358 million in savings related to safety when the first analysis of ECP braking was done, down to $131 to $198 million in total benefits, as the reason for their repeal of the rule. PHMSA said the lower estimates stem from a decrease in the amount of oil being transported by rail.

The Association of American Railroad (AAR), an organization representing rail carriers, praised the repeal, while Inslee, environmental groups and unions protest this reduction in safety.

Click here to read the full story from the Bellingham Herald.

SMART TD comments favor Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brake systems

These comments are on behalf of the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART).  The SMART Transportation Division, formerly the United Transportation Union, is an organization representing approximately 125,000 transportation employees with active rail members in all operating crafts, including engineers, conductors, trainmen, switchmen and yardmasters.

This is in response to the PHMSA’s request for additional information regarding its current regulations on Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) braking systems.

As a locomotive train engineer for 30 years who has operated trains with ECP brakes, I can attest that ECP brakes are the greatest safety advancement I have seen in my 40 years in the railroad industry. ECP brakes slow and stop trains up to 70 percent faster than conventional brakes and are the safest, most-advanced train braking system in the world.

The most recent analysis of ECP braking systems has focused almost exclusively on comparing ECP brakes with conventional braking systems during emergency brake applications. The analysis also evaluated conventional brakes with distributed power, which is a small aid to conventional brake systems.  I readily admit that ECP brakes are only slightly better than conventional brake systems during emergency brake applications. But reviewing ECP brakes only as they apply to emergency applications is a mistake because emergency brake applications on freight trains are a rare event. PHMSA needs to consider other very significant safety benefits that ECP brakes provide in the safe movement of trains.

The most recent ECP review was unnecessary and was a response by Congress to demands from the nation’s railroads to repeal the rule. ECP brakes have been studied and analyzed for years, and the jury is in — if we truly want to take rail safety to a higher level, ECP brakes are the means by which to do so.

The latest study focused on one aspect of ECP brakes because in emergency applications ECP brakes are only slightly better than conventional brakes and would not justify the entire costs of their installation. The real failure will be if PHMSA does not look at comprehensive analyses of ECP brakes that have already been done on freight train operations. This can be corrected by reviewing past studies, including FRA’s final report titled ECP Brake System for Freight Service that was produced by Booz Allen Hamilton and released in August 2006.

Conventional train air brake systems are a 140-year-old technology that has evolved to its maximum capabilities. You can add dynamic braking, which has been around since the 1930s, and you can add distributive power, which has been around since the 1990s, to conventional air brakes, and you gain slightly in improved braking. But the only dramatic advancement to improve a freight train’s braking ability and safety is from ECP brakes. As a locomotive engineer, operating a train with ECP brakes is like driving the new top-of-the-line Tesla while operating a freight train with outdated conventional brakes is like driving a 1974 Ford Galaxie 500. The differences are that significant and substantial.

Below are 11 key reasons why ECP brakes are better than conventional air brakes:

  1. ECP brakes maintain a train’s brake pipe pressure 100 percent of the time, conventional brakes do not.The colder the weather, the thinner the air, the more crucial maintaining brake pressure is.
  2. ECP brakes allow for a “graduated” release. An engineer can partially release the train’s brakes without having to fully release them. This is vitally important because once a train’s brakes are released, it takes time to recharge the train’s brake pipe pressure in order for the brakes to work again. The graduated release feature allows an engineer to maintain the speed of his/her train down steep grades with a partial application of the brakes and without fully releasing and reapplying the train’s brakes repeatedly.The graduated release feature all but eliminates the possibility of a runaway train.
  3. When the engineer makes an emergency application of the brakes, every car with ECP brakes applies its brakes 100 percent of the time.This is not always true with conventional brakes.
  4. ECP brakes would have prevented the terrible Lac-Megantic oil train tragedy that killed 47 people and destroyed the town, a factor cited in Transport Canada’s report on the accident.These brakes would have prevented the accident because when air pressure on a car equipped with ECP brakes drops below 50 psi, the car automatically goes into emergency. Therefore, even an improperly secured train will not roll away.
  5. ECP brakes allow the crew to monitor every car in the train in real timeto determine if the brakes are applied or released. Conventional brakes do not.
  6. ECP brakes record retrievable data associated with brake failures.There is no such review for conventional brakes. Trains are inspected every 1,000-1,800 miles, and if the brakes are working during the inspection, the car moves on. If a car has brakes that fail to apply during that inspection, the car is taken to a repair facility. Often, that facility is a heated shop where the car warms up. The brakes are then tested, and if they work at that point, the car is not repaired and instead placed back in the train.
  7. ECP brakes all but eliminate in-train forces because all the cars apply and release at once.Conventional brakes create a multitude of in-train forces, some of which damage couplers, knuckles, draft rigging and merchandise.  These in-train forces also cause break-in-twos and derailments.
  8. ECP brakes cause all cars to brake evenly, which dramatically reduces damage to wheels and brake shoes, saving a great deal of money in maintenance and repair.Conventional brakes do not. The modest cost of installing ECP brakes, approximately $3,000 per car on a new DOT 117 tank car that costs $144,000 to build, and about $60,000 per locomotive, will be more than paid for in the savings in car repairs, let alone reduced train derailments.
  9. ECP brakes can be modified to apply hand brakes to a railcar automatically from the locomotive, allowing the crew to apply a hand brake on every car in the train in seconds.Conventional brakes must be applied by hand, and it can take an hour or more to properly secure a train.
  10. ECP brakes are required by the American Association of Railroads (AAR) for the movement of nuclear waste trains because they are the safest braking system available.
  11. ECP brakes can be modified and will evolve to do everything sophisticated wayside train detectors do nowand will do it in real time, eventually eliminating the need for wayside detectors.

For the safety of rail workers and the residents in surrounding cities and towns that trains run through, it is vital that ECP brakes be phased in on freight trains. We ask that PHMSA retain the final rule so we can gradually and cost effectively evolve our antiquated, outdated freight train braking systems into the best they can be.

In addition, we request that PHMSA hold a public hearing where I can explain in detail the benefits of ECP brakes and answer any questions the agency might have.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

John Risch

National Legislative Director

SMART- Transportation Division

House Appropriations Committee releases details of 2018 transportation funding bill

On July 10, the House Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill, which includes funding for the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other related agencies.

Although the bill will fund many important transportation projects and agencies, including Amtrak, at the same time it eliminates funding for DOT’s TIGER grant program and prohibits any funding for the ongoing California high-speed rail project.

Tiger grant defunded

In effect since 2009, the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program provides funding to improve safety and economic opportunity. It has supported innovative projects including multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional projects and has improved access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation for communities.

Since the program’s inception, the TIGER grant program has provided a combined $5.1 billion to 421 projects in all 50 states and U.S. territories. Demand is high in the TIGER grant program and 2016 saw requests that far exceeded the available funds allotted to the program.

If the House Appropriations bill passes as is, this valuable and much sought after program will be eliminated.

SMART TD reaction to bill

“These levels of funding for Amtrak are significant compared to the White House’s disastrous plan to eliminate long distance trains,” said John Risch, SMART TD national legislative director. “There is still a long ways to go in the process. We will continue to work with the entire House and Senate to strike the awful language regarding California high speed rail and try to get increased funding for both transit and passenger rail.

“In North Dakota, there is a nasty big-truck provision in the bill that would increase allowable truck weights to 129,000 lbs. – that needs to be removed,” Risch continued. “North Dakota’s roads and bridges are already being pounded by oil industry trucks and this terrible idea makes it final that passage road conditions will get far worse.”

Transportation Funding Highlights

Department of Transportation (DOT) – The bill includes $17.8 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Transportation for fiscal year 2018. This is $646 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $1.5 billion above the President’s request. In total budgetary resources, including offsetting collections, the bill provides $76.7 billion to improve and maintain our nation’s transportation infrastructure.

The bill targets funding to programs and projects that will increase efficiency, safety, reliability and quality of life for the traveling public, and that will help improve commerce and economic growth.

  • Air – Included in the legislation is $16.6 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – $153 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $435 million above the request. This will provide full funding for all air traffic control personnel, including 14,500 air traffic controllers, 7,400 safety inspectors and operational support personnel. The bill also builds on several years of increased funding by providing over $1 billion for the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation Systems (NextGen), and funds Contract Towers at $162 million. These investments will help ease future congestion and help reduce delays for travelers in U.S. airspace. In addition, the bill does not include new passenger facility and general aviation fees.
  • Highways – The bill allows $45 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be spent on the Federal-aid Highways Program, which is $968 million above the fiscal year 2017 level. This funding mirrors the authorized levels and will provide much needed growth and improvements within America’s highway system.
  • Rail – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is funded at $2.2 billion, $360 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $1.1 billion above the request. The bill provides a total of $1.4 billion for Amtrak, of which $328 million is for the Northeast Corridor grants, and $1.1 billion is to support the national network. The bill also continues to require overtime limits for Amtrak employees to reduce unnecessary costs. Rail safety and research programs are funded at $258.3 million, equal to the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This will fund inspectors and training, plus maintenance and safety investments to the physical rail infrastructure, to help ensure the safety of passengers and local communities. The bill also provides funding for two authorized grant programs. It funds the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants at $500 million, which will address some of the $38 billion backlog on the Northeast Corridor – needs that must be addressed simply to sustain current rail services. In addition, the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grants are funded at $25 million, a reduction of $43 million from the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Eligible activities include capital and safety improvements, planning, environmental work and research. The bill prohibits funding for high speed rail in California, the California High Speed Rail Authority, and for FRA to administer a grant agreement with the Authority that contains a tapered match. The bill prohibits the Surface Transportation Board from taking action regarding the construction of high-speed rail in California unless the Board has jurisdiction over the entire project.
  • Transit – The bill provides $11.75 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) – $662 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $526 million above the request. Transit formula grants total $9.7 billion – consistent with the authorization level – to help local communities build, maintain and ensure the safety of their mass transit systems. Within this amount, $1.75 billion is included for Capital Investment Grants, and $1 billion for “Full Funding Grant Agreement” (FFGA) transit projects. Core capacity projects receive $145 million in the bill, $182 million is included to fund all state and local “Small Starts” projects, and $400 million is included for new projects that provide both public transportation and inner-city passenger rail service. These programs provide competitive grant funding for major transit capital investments – including rapid rail, light rail, bus rapid transit and commuter rail – that are planned and operated by local communities. Bill language limits the federal match for New Starts projects to 50 percent.
  • Maritime – The legislation includes $490.6 million for the Maritime Administration, $31.9 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This funding level will continue to increase the productivity, efficiency and safety of the nation’s ports and intermodal water and land transportation. The Maritime Security Program is funded at the full authorized level of $300 million.
  • Safety – The legislation contains funding for the various transportation safety programs and agencies within the Department of Transportation. This includes $927 million in total budgetary resources for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – an increase of $15 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level – and $758 million is included for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), $113.6 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.  Also included is $268 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), an increase of $3.7 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.
  • Grants – The legislation eliminates National Infrastructure Investment grants (also known as TIGER grants), which were funded at $500 million in fiscal year 2017.

Click here to read the full press release from the House Appropriations Committee.

N.Y. tells PHMSA to close oil train safety loophole

oil-train-railNew York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has called on the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to limit the vapor pressure of crude oil shipped by rail.

In a petition for rulemaking, Schneiderman asked the agency to require all crude transported by rail in the United States to achieve a vapor pressure of less than 9 pounds per square inch (psi).

Read more from Progressive Railroading.

CSX joins court appeals against ECP brakes

csx locomotiveA week after railroads lost an appeal against the U.S. Department of Transportation’s new brake requirements, CSX Corp. (NYSE: CSX) has reinforced its stance against the new program.

The new brake rules were issued by the DOT in May, and included phasing in tougher tank car standards and new electronically controlled pneumatic braking systems on any trains carrying more than 70 cars of crude oil by 2021. On November 11, the agency’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration denied appeals against the rules.

Read more from Jacksonville Business Journal.

DOT denies appeals of high-hazard trains rule

PHMSAOn May 8, 2015, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), published a final rule entitled, “Hazardous Materials: Enhanced Tank Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains,” which adopted requirements designed to reduce the consequences and, in some instances, reduce the probability of accidents involving trains transporting large quantities of Class 3 flammable liquids.

The Hazardous Materials Regulations provide a person the opportunity to appeal a PHMSA action, including a final rule. PHMSA received six appeals regarding the final rule, one of which was withdrawn.

The five remaining appeals were submitted by the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council (DGAC), American Chemistry Council (ACC), Association of American Railroads (AAR), American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), and jointly the Umatilla, Yakama, Warm Springs, and Nez Perce tribes (Columbia River Treaty Tribes) and the Quinault Indian Nation (Northwest Treaty Tribes).

Dangerous Goods Advisory Council

The DGAC contends that the applicability of the final rule should be limited to the transportation of crude oil and ethanol trains, which, it says, was the stated intention of the rule. DGAC argues that, if the Department wishes to pursue enhanced tank car standards and operational requirements for other Class 3 (flammable liquid) materials, it should do so in a separate rulemaking.

American Chemistry Council

ACC believes that the scope of the final rule will inadvertently affect nearly 40,000 legacy DOT-111 tank cars that transport Class 3 flammable liquids that were not accounted for in the accompanying RIA. ACC states that because a shipper cannot know how a carrier will assemble a train, the possibility that a shipper’s tank car will be placed into an HHFT will force all shippers of Class 3 materials to retrofit or purchase tank cars to meet the DOT-117R or DOT-117 specification. ACC believes that, coupled with a retrofit timeline that does not match the Canadian timeline, the final rule will fail to properly address the risks associated with hazardous materials offered and transported in unit trains.

Association of American Railroads

AAR contests the scope of the final rule because it permits shippers to continue to package Class 3 flammable liquid materials in tank cars that do not meet the new DOT-117 tank car standard. AAR states that PHMSA has created two pools of tank cars, those that meet the heightened standard for HHFTs and those that do not. As a result, AAR asserts, shippers may continue to offer Class 3 flammable liquid materials in DOT-111 tank cars as long as the DOT-111 is not placed in an HHFT. According to AAR, this places an unjustified burden on the railroads to continuously analyze the composition of each train transporting Class 3 flammable liquid materials in DOT-111 tank cars. AAR claims that PHMSA’s argument, that through fleet management the railroads can avoid this issue, is baseless. AAR believes that PHMSA should harmonize with Canada by banning the use of DOT-111 tank cars for transporting any Class 3 flammable liquid materials. By failing to harmonize with Canada in this respect, AAR contends that the U.S. market will become flooded with legacy DOT-111 tank cars, which will further exacerbate the fleet management challenges U.S. railroads will face to construct trains to avoid meeting the definition of an HHFT. To support its appeal, AAR submitted waybill data from its subsidiary Railinc showing numbers of flammable liquid shipments tendered in smaller groups of cars that do not by themselves meet the definition of an HHFT. Data from the first quarter of 2015 illustrate that 37,000 cars of flammable liquids (other than crude oil and ethanol) were tendered in blocks of 20 cars or fewer. During the same period, 37,576 tank cars of other flammable liquids (other than the 25,009 tank cars of crude oil or 39,956 tank cars of ethanol) were tendered in groups of fewer than 35 cars. According to AAR, had the final rule been in effect, a total of 102,541 cars of flammable liquids could have moved in existing DOT-111s. AAR contends that PHMSA should specify a sunset date for discontinuing the use of DOT-111 tank cars for hazardous materials not in an HHFT.

 Summary of PHMSA and FRA response

PHMSA denies the appellants’ (DGAC, ACC, AAR, AFPM, and Treaty Tribes) appeals on Scope of Rulemaking, Tribal Impacts and Consultation, Retrofit Timeline and Tank Car Reporting Requirements, Thermal Protection for Tank Cars, and Advanced Brake Signal Propagation Systems. We conclude we reasonably determined how to apply new regulations and provided the regulatory analysis to support those decisions. While we understand that shippers, carriers, and tank car manufacturers for Class 3 flammable liquids will face new challenges in the wake of these regulations, we maintain that they are capable of complying with the final rule. We also deny DGAC’s appeal to eliminate or provide further guidance for the Sampling and Testing program. The sampling and testing program is reasonable, justified, necessary and clear as written. Additionally, we disagree that a delayed compliance date of March 31, 2016 should be provided for implementation of the requirements in § 173.41 for shippers to implement changes for training and documentation.

With respect to Information Sharing/Notification, PHMSA announced in a May 28, 2015, notice that it would extend the Emergency Order applicable to the topic of Information Sharing/Notification indefinitely, while it considered options for codifying the disclosure requirement permanently. Furthermore, on July 22, 2015, FRA issued a public letter instructing railroads transporting crude oil that they must continue to notify SERCs of the expected movement of Bakken crude oil trains through individual States. While the treaty tribes and other stakeholders will have the opportunity to comment on these future regulatory proposals in the course of that rulemaking proceeding, PHMSA will continue to seek opportunities to reach out to the tribes and consultation from tribal leaders.

Click here to read the full ruling. 

DOT unveils grants to protect towns from accidents

PHMSAThe Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 (P.L. 113-235) allowed PHMSA to use money recovered from prior year Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness (HMEP) grants to fund the ALERT grants.

“Safety is our top priority and the ALERT grants will help first responders, especially volunteer firefighters in rural or remote parts of the country, prepare for and respond to incidents involving flammable liquids,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “It’s critical that first responders have the information and training they need to respond to these types of incidents, and is one of more than a dozen actions the Department has taken in recent months to strengthen the safe transportation of crude oil, ethanol and other flammable liquids by rail.”

Grants from PHMSA are funded by annual user registration fees paid by shippers and carriers of certain hazardous materials in commerce. During grant period 2013-14, HMEP grants funded more than 91,000 first responders in initial or refresher hazardous materials response training, over 1,300 new or revised hazardous materials emergency response plans, and over 950 hazardous materials exercises.

“Nearly 25,000 additional firefighters, police and other first responders are expected to benefit from this one-year realignment of hazmat training grants,” said PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez.

Awardee Funding Distribution
ALERT Grants
Nonprofit Grantees
Total Awarded
1. University of Findlay (All Hazards Training Center), Findlay, OH
$611,491
2. International Association of Fire Chiefs, Fairfax, VA
$2,654,235
3. Center for Rural Development, Somerset, KY
$2,675,470
TOTAL
$5,941,196

 

 

 

 

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration develops and enforces regulations for the safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of the nation’s 2.6 million mile pipeline transportation system and the nearly 1 million daily shipments of hazardous materials by land, sea, and air. Please visit http://phmsa.dot.gov or https://twitter.com/PHMSA_DOT for more information.

Senators call for permanent director of PHMSA

searchWASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators concerned about the potential dangers of oil being transported via rail sent a letter calling on President Obama to nominate a permanent administrator to head the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the agency responsible for overseeing pipeline and crude-by-rail safety.

“It is important to states like ours that PHMSA have a permanent administrator to ensure accountability, to develop long-term plans for pipeline transport and crude-by-rail safety, and to respond quickly when things unfortunately go wrong,” the Senators wrote.

Washington senators Maria Cantwell, D-WA, and Patty Murray, D-WA, joined by Senators Jon Tester, D-Mont., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., all signed the letter.

Read more from the Central Kitsap Reporter.

DOT issues final rule for transporting liquids

Rule will make significant and extensive changes to improve accident prevention, mitigation and emergency response

DOT_Logo_150pxWASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced a final rule for the safe transportation of flammable liquids by rail. The final rule, developed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), in coordination with Canada, focuses on safety improvements that are designed to prevent accidents, mitigate consequences in the event of an accident, and support emergency response.

The rule:

  1. Unveils a new, enhanced tank car standard and an aggressive, risk-based retrofitting schedule for older tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol;
  2. Requires a new braking standard for certain trains that will offer a superior level of safety by potentially reducing the severity of an accident, and  the “pile-up effect”;
  3. Designates new operational protocols for trains transporting large volumes of flammable liquids, such as routing requirements, speed restrictions, and information for local government agencies; and
  4. Provides new sampling and testing requirements to improve classification of energy products placed into transport.

Canada’s Minister of Transport, Lisa Raitt, joined Secretary Foxx to announce Canada’s new tank car standards, which align with the U.S. standard.

“Safety has been our top priority at every step in the process for finalizing this rule, which is a significant improvement over the current regulations and requirements and will make transporting flammable liquids safer,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “Our close collaboration with Canada on new tank car standards is recognition that the trains moving unprecedented amounts of crude by rail are not U.S. or Canadian tank cars – they are part of a North American fleet and a shared safety challenge.”

“This stronger, safer, more robust tank car will protect communities on both sides of our shared border,” said Minister Raitt.  “Through strong collaboration we have developed a harmonized solution for North America’s tank car fleet. I am hopeful that this kind of cooperation will be a model for future Canada-U.S. partnership on transportation issues.”

Other federal agencies are also working to make transporting flammable liquids safer.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Energy (DOE), in coordination with the White House, are pursuing strategies to improve safety.  DOE recently developed an initiative designed to research and characterize tight and conventional crude oils based on key chemical and physical properties, and to identify properties that may contribute to increased likelihood and/or severity of combustion events that can arise during handling and transport.

This final rule represents the latest, and most significant to date, in a series of nearly 30 actions that DOT has initiated over the last nineteen months, including additional emergency orders, safety advisories and other actions. 

Additional information about the rule:

(Unless stated otherwise, the rule applies to “high-hazard flammable trains” (HHFTs)—a continuous block of 20 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid or 35 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid dispersed through a train.).

Enhanced Standards for New and Existing Tank Cars for use in an HHFT—New tank cars constructed after October 1, 2015, are required to meet the new DOT Specification 117 design or performance criteria. The prescribed car has a 9/16 inch tank shell, 11 gauge jacket, 1/2 inch full-height head shield, thermal protection, and improved pressure relief valves and bottom outlet valves. Existing tank cars must be retrofitted with the same key components based on a prescriptive, risk-based retrofit schedule (see table). As a result of the aggressive, risk-based approach, the final rule will require replacing the entire fleet of DOT-111 tank cars for Packing Group I, which covers most crude shipped by rail, within three years and all non-jacketed CPC-1232s, in the same service, within approximately five years.

Enhanced Braking to Mitigate Damage in Derailments—The rule requires HHFTs to have in place a functioning two-way end-of-train (EOT) device or a distributed power (DP) braking system.  Trains meeting the definition of a “high-hazard flammable unit train,” or HHFUT (a single train with 70 or more tank cars loaded with Class 3 flammable liquids), with at least one tank car with Packing Group I materials, must be operated with an electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking system by January 1, 2021. All other HHFUTs must have ECP braking systems installed after 2023.  This important, service-proven technology has been operated successfully for years in certain services in the United States, Australia, and elsewhere.

Reduced Operating Speeds—The rule restricts all HHFTs to 50 mph in all areas and HHFTs containing any tank cars not meeting the enhanced tank car standards required by this rule are restricted to operating at a 40 mph speed restriction in high-threat urban areas.  The 40 mph restriction for HHFTs without new or retrofitted tank cars is also currently required under FRA’s Emergency Order No. 30.

Rail Routing – More Robust Risk Assessment—Railroads operating HHFTs must perform a routing analysis that considers, at a minimum, 27 safety and security factors, including “track type, class, and maintenance schedule” and “track grade and curvature,” and select a route based on its findings.  These planning requirements are prescribed in 49 CFR §172.820.

Rail Routing – Improves Information Sharing—Ensures that railroads provide State and/or regional fusion centers, and State, local and tribal officials with a railroad point of contact for information related to the routing of hazardous materials through their jurisdictions. This replaces the proposed requirement for railroads to notify State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) or other appropriate state-designated entities about the operation of these trains through their States.

More Accurate Classification of Unrefined Petroleum-Based Products—Offerors must develop and carry out sampling and testing programs for all unrefined petroleum-based products, such as crude oil, to address the criteria and frequency of sampling to improve and ensure accuracy. Offerors must certify that hazardous materials subject to the program are packaged in accordance with the test results, document the testing and sampling program outcomes, and make that information available to DOT personnel upon request.

The actions taken today address several recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board, including: requiring enhanced safety features for tank cars carrying ethanol and crude oil and an aggressive schedule to replace or retrofit existing tank cars; requiring thermal protection and high-capacity pressure relieve valves for tank cars in flammable liquid service, expanding hazardous materials route planning and selection requirements for trains transporting flammable liquids; inspecting shippers to ensure crude oil is properly classified and requiring shippers to sufficiently test and document both physical and chemical characteristics of hazardous materials; and providing a vehicle for reporting the number of cars retrofitted.

You can view a summary of the rule here and the entire rule here.  For additional information on the steps the Department of Transportation has already taken to help strengthen the safe transport of crude oil by rail, please visit www.dot.gov/mission/safety/rail-chronology.