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July 13, 2016

PHMSA Proposes New Safety Oil Spill Response Plans And Information Sharing For High-Hazard Flammable Trains

The ACTA Group

On July 13, 2016, the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), announced proposed regulations for Oil Spill Response Plans and Information Sharing for High-Hazard Flammable Trains (HHFTs). The rule would expand the comprehensive oil spill response plan requirements under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to certain HHFT trains based on the amount of crude oil being transported. Under the proposal, certain HHFT trains would be required to have comprehensive plans rather than the basic plans that are currently required. The rule also proposes to require the operator to be prepared to respond to an incident involving a worst-case discharge, or the largest quantity of oil reasonably expected to be discharged during an incident. The rule would codify the requirement that railroads share information about all HHFT operations with state and tribal emergency response commissions to improve community preparedness, in accordance with the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 (FAST Act). The rule proposes railroads be required to provide monthly notification or certification of no change to state and tribal emergency response commissions and relevant emergency responders for HHFTs, including: a reasonable estimate of the number of HHFTs that are expected to travel, per week, through each county within the state; the routes over which the affected trains will be transported; a description of the materials shipped and applicable emergency response information required by the hazardous materials regulations (HMR); at least one point of contact at the railroad (including name, title, phone number, and address); and for petroleum oil trains subject to the Comprehensive Oil Spill Response Plan under 49 C.F.R. Part 130, the contact information for the qualified individuals and description of response zones must also be provided to state and tribal emergency response commissions, or other appropriate state-delegated entities. The rule would also incorporate into the HMR an alternative test method for initial boiling point for flammable liquids (Hazard Class 3) to determine the proper Packing Group. PHMSA is proposing to incorporate by reference an initial boiling point test for flammable liquids from the ASTM D7900 method referenced in the American National Standards Institute/American Petroleum Institute Recommend Practices 3000, “Classifying and Loading of Crude Oil into Rail Tank Cars,” First Edition, September 2014, as an acceptable testing alternative to the boiling point tests currently specified in the HMR. The ASTM D7900 standard differs from the boiling point tests currently in the HMR in that it is the only test that ensures a minimal loss of light ends. The incorporation of the ASTM D7900 will not replace the currently authorized initial boiling point testing methods, but rather serve as a testing alternative if one chooses to use that method. A copy of the pre-publication version of the proposed rule is available online.