Posts Tagged ‘Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’

LNG Rules Suspended for Further Study

November 10, 2021

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration published this week a notice of proposed rulemaking that would suspend transportation of liquefied natural gas by rail.

The notice said the suspension would remain in effect while the agency conducts “more research and testing to ensure the safety of moving this commodity by rail.”

If adopted the new rule would supersede a rule approved in June 2019 that allowed the movement of LNG in DOT-113C120W9 specification tank cars with enhanced outer tank requirements and additional operational controls.

The 2019 rule was in accordance with an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in April 2019.

States Sue to Stop LNG by Rail Rule

August 20, 2020

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit this week seeking to overturn a rule by the U.S. Department of Transportation allowing the bulk transport by rail of liquefied natural gas.

The suit, which was filed in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, cites health and safety concerns.

The rule, originally promulgated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration would permit bulk transport by rail of LNG.

That agency worked in tandem with the Federal Railroad Administration to write the rule, which became final in June.

The states filing the lawsuit included California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

They were joined by several environmental groups led by Earthjustice.

They are contending that PHMSA’s failure to evaluate the environmental impacts of the rule is unlawful, and the rule lacks the necessary safety requirements to minimize the risk to public safety associated with transporting LNG by rail.

Most of the same states had during the rule making process opposed the rule.

The states said they will argue in court that the final rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act, National Environmental Policy Act and Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.

Proposed LNG by Rail Rule Draws Range of Comments

January 17, 2020

Opinions are flowing in rapidly on a proposal by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to allow trains to transport liquefied natural gas in DOT-113C120W specification rail tank cars.

Opposed are the National Transportation Safety Board, attorneys general of 16 states and at least two U.S. senators.

In favor are railroad trade groups Association of American Railroads, and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

The rule change is also being pushed by the Trump administration.

To opponents it is a matter of public safety. The proponents of the rule also cite safety but contend that transporting LNG by rail is safer because of the industry’s “strong safety record” on a ton-mile basis.

Under existing standards, LNG can only be transported by rail with a PHMSA special permit or in a portable tank with Federal Railroad Administration approval.

The dispute began last April when President Trump issued an executive order directing the U.S. Department of Transportation to expedite a proceeding so that LNG could be moved by rail tank cars within 13 months.

The proposed rule that is the subject of public comment was issued in October by the PHMSA.

From the administration’s viewpoint, the rule will provide economic benefits by providing additional transportation options for U.S. energy resources.

In a news release, PHMSA said LNG by rail is seen by the administration as a potential alternative to pipelines, which are not always able to meet the demand of or reach certain areas in the United States that are accessible by rail.

Railroad trade groups that favor the rule have sought to play up the safety record of railroads, saying railroads are involved in only 3 percent of hazardous materials incidents that trucks are involved in, despite having roughly equal hazmat ton-mileage.

The trade groups have even called for the proposed rule to be more expansive than it is, calling for PHMSA to allow LNG to be transported by the 113C140 tank car in addition to the 113C120 and dropping proposed limits on the lengths of trains transporting LNG.

For its part the NTSB has said public safety may be at risk without further study of LNG by rail.

The safety agency said the rule should at a minimum include additional route planning requirements; limit trains transporting large blocks of LNG tank cars to a maximum speed of 50 mph; and require LNG trains to be equipped with electronically controlled pneumatic brakes.

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley wrote to PHMSA Administrator Howard Elliott to warn that loosening restrictions on transporting LNG by rail “would pose serious threats to public safety that do not appear to have been adequately considered” by regulators.

In calling for further study they cited multiple accidents involving trains carrying hazardous materials, including a 2016 derailment in Mosier, Oregon, that spilled 42,000 gallons of crude oil into the Columbia River Gorge and sparked a large fire.

The attorneys general in opposing the LNG by rail rule said it ignores safety risks and doesn’t substantially address environmental issues.

They, too, want the rule withdrawn until further study and an environmental impact statement can be completed.

AG’s Disapprove of Rule Allowing Expanded LNG by Rail

January 16, 2020

The attorneys general of 15 states and the District of Columbia this week issued a joint statement in opposition to a proposal to allow the movement of liquefied natural gas by rail.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration are seeking public comment on the proposal to move LNG in DOT-113 tank cars.

Current rules permit LNG to be moved by truck or by rail only in a portable tank that is approved by the FRA.

The House of Representatives last year approved an amendment to ban the U.S. Department of Transportation from issuing permits to move LNG by rail.

That amendment was prompted by an executive order that directed the secretary of transportation to finalize a rule that would “treat LNG the same as other cryogenic liquids and permit LNG to be transported in approved rail cars.”

In December, PHMSA granted a special permit to Energy Transport Solutions LLC to move LNG in DO-113 tank cars from Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, and Gibbstown, New Jersey.

Union Wants FRA to Order Brake Valves Replaced

December 27, 2019

A railroad union wants the Federal Railroad Administration to issue an emergency order to require the immediate replacement of what it termed outdated air brake valves on freight cars.

The SMART Transportation Division said tens of thousands of model DB-10 air brake valves have remained in use beyond their fixed lifespan and during cold weather these valves can leak air, causing freight-train operators to lose braking capabilities.

In a news release, SMART TD noted the the Association of American Railroads issued a maintenance advisory in 2013 that railroads replace and repair the malfunctioning valves.
SMART TD said that although the AAR made recommendations the fixes have thus far been unsatisfactory.

Railroads have been reluctant to replace old parts in a thorough way because of the potential delays it could cause to customers, the union said and has instead used a “catch-as-can” approach.

In an unrelated development, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-New Jersey) have called upon the Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration to to thoroughly analyze the potential impacts of transporting liquefied natural gas by rail tank car.

The congressmen sent a letter to PHMSA Administrator Howard Elliott asking his agency to conduct the analysis of public and environmental risks, and apply stringent safety protections and operational controls when LNG is transported by rail car through communities.

The letter came in response to a notice of proposed rulemaking published by PHMSA in late October whereby the agency in coordination with the FRA proposed the rule to permit the transport of large quantities of LNG throughout the country by rail tank car.

PHMSA has granted a special permit to Energy Transport Solutions to move LNG from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, “without appropriate research and analysis of the safety risks to communities and no opportunity for the public to address operating conditions,” the congressmen said.

Report Calls for More Action on Tank Car Safety

October 13, 2017

Tanks cars could be made safer if the Federal Railroad Administration would “enable and incentivize more frequent and comprehensive inspections of rail routes with regular energy liquids traffic,” a report by the Transportation Research Board concluded.

The TRB said that although the vast majority of hazardous liquids have been transported safely by the rail, pipeline, and maritime industries, the volume of that traffic has grown significantly since 2005 and there is an “incomplete understanding of the dynamics of tank-car unit train derailments and a lack of clear guidelines and resources for state and local emergency responders.”

Among the issues that need to be addressed are the technical basis for track inspection standards, lack of training of first responders, and differences in the ways that officials gather and share accident data among states and communities subject to liquid fuels.

The report said some railroads continue to use older and less crashworthy tank cars.

That was disputed somewhat by the Association of American Railroads, which told a congressional committee recently that through the first two quarters of 2017, only 156 DOT-111 cars remain in flammable liquids service.

AAR said the weaker DOT-111 cars are being phased out in favor of the sturdier DOT-117 tank cars.

The TRB reports called for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to ensure that preparedness grants meet the needs of communities, and make sure that first responders are taking advantage of training opportunities.

It wants the FRA to provide incentives for more frequent inspections along routes used for transporting flammables, including the use of sensors and other monitoring technology.

Regulators need to encourage carriers “to make greater use of quantitative risk analysis tools … to inform decisions about priorities for maintenance and integrity management of the equipment and infrastructure.”

CSX VP to Head DOT Hazmat Unit

September 12, 2017

A CSX executive will be named by President Donald J. Trump to become Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Howard R. “Skip” Elliott has served for the past decade as CSX group vice president of public safety, health, environment and security.

His duties have included hazardous materials transportation safety, homeland security, railroad policing, crisis management, environmental compliance and operations, occupational health management and continuity of business operations.

Elliott is a receipient of the Association of American Railroads Holden-Proefrock Award for lifetime achievement in hazardous materials transportation safety.

A 40-year railroad industry veteran, Elliott is a graduate of Columbia Southern University and Indiana University, where he received the first ever Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Criminal Justice, and is a current member of the IU College of Arts and Sciences Executive Dean’s Advisory Committee.

PHMSA, which is housed within the Federal Railroad Administration, holds regulatory responsibility for hazmat transported in railroad tank cars. Among its most recent actions was overseeing development of the DOT-117A tank car for crude oil and ethanol transportation, and regulations governing phasing-out of older, “legacy” DOT-111 tank cars.

Agencies Take Action on Crude Oil Train Safety

April 21, 2015

An array of actions are being advanced by the Federal Railroad Administration, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration that the agencies say will address issues raised in the wake of a spate of recent derailments involving crude oil and ethanol shipped by rail.

The proposals are the latest in a series of more than two dozen that DOT has initiated over the past 19 months.

The announcement includes one emergency order, two safety advisories, and notices to industry that are intended to further enhance the safe shipment of Class 3 flammable liquids.

The FRA also has asked the Association of American Railroads to help develop a formal process by which specific information becomes available to emergency responders and investigators within 90 minutes of initial contact with an investigator.

That information includes the train consist, including locomotives, cars and end-of-train device; waybill data; Safety Data Sheets for hazardous materials onboard; results of any product testing undertaken prior to transport to classify the materials; names and locations of companies and facilities handling the materials prior to a derailment; and the names of the railroads handling the materials and a timeline of custody for each.

The AAR said some of this information is not tracked by the railroads and it is not a requirement for customers to provide it.

DOT said that Emergency Order No. 30, Notice No. 1, establishes a maximum authorized speed of 40 mph for trains transporting large amounts of Class 3 flammable liquid through certain highly populated areas, known as High Thread Urban Areas.

The order is effective on trains containing 20 or more loaded tank cars in a continuous block (35 or more loaded tank cars) f Class 3 flammable liquid; and at least one DOT-111 tank car, including those built in accordance with Association of American Railroads CPC-1232 standards, if that car is loaded with a Class 3 flammable liquid.

“The boom in crude oil production, and transportation of that crude, poses a serious threat to public safety,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement. “The measures we are announcing today are a result of lessons learned from recent accidents and are steps we are able to take today to improve safety. Our efforts in partnership with agencies throughout this Administration show that this is more than a transportation issue, and we are not done yet.”

The AAR, generally, is supportive of the government’s safety efforts.

“The freight railroad industry shares the belief that there is no greater priority than safety. It is always our goal to make a safe network even safer, and as FRA data shows, 2014 was the safest year for train accidents in railroad history,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger in a statement.

Since 2013, there have been 23 crude oil-related train accidents in the U.S., the majority of which have not resulted in a release of oil.