PHMSA Proposes Expanded Oil Spill Response Plan Rules for Railroads

Posted on 7/29/2016 by Roger Marks

In the Federal Register on Friday, July 29, the US DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) proposed a rulemaking to expand the comprehensive oil spill response plans (OSRP) required for railroads that transport “High Hazard Flammable Trains” (HHFTs). PHMSA also proposed updating the format of the comprehensive OSRPs and requiring railroads to share information with State and tribal emergency responders. 

PHMSA is proposing to incorporate by reference an alternative method for testing the initial boiling point for flammable liquids, the ASTM D7900 method. This rulemaking is part of an ongoing effort to fully realize provisions required by the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

See the rulemaking in the Federal Register here.

What Is a High Hazard Flammable Train (HHFT)?

A High-Hazard Flammable Train, as defined by US DOT in May 2015, is a train that carries more than twenty cars of a Class 3 flammable liquid in a continuous block. A train is also an HHFT if it includes thirty-six or more cars loaded with a Class 3 flammable liquid across the entire train.

Rail car transporting crude oil

Oil Spill Planning Requirements for Railroads

Required under the PHMSA Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) at 49 CFR 130, oil spill response plans for railroads must meet the requirements found in the Clean Water Act. That said, 49 CFR 130 requires comprehensive oil response spill plans only when oil is transported in volumes greater than 1,000 barrels or 42,000 gallons per package. Because a rail car carrying crude oil holds about 30,000 gallons, railroads are not currently covered under this 49 CFR requirement.

PHMSA’s proposed rulemaking will extend the comprehensive oil spill response plan requirement to apply to High-Hazard Flammable Trains.

Most, if not all, tank car shipments of crude oil are currently covered under PHMSA’s requirements for “basic plans,” which apply to containers with a capacity of 3,500 gallons or more. The proposed rulemaking will not change the requirements or applicability for basic plans. 

Ongoing Hazmat Rulemakings for Crude-by-Rail

As the volume of crude oil shipped by rail has increased at a breakneck pace over the past decade, PHMSA has pushed hard to bolster the safety of flammable liquids transported in tank cars. DOT finalized new requirements for crude oil rail shippers, rail carriers, and rail yards in May 2015. The 2015 rulemaking defined the terms “High-Hazard Flammable Train” (HHFT) and “High-Hazard Flammable Unit Train” (HHUFT), introduced operating restrictions for trains that carry large volumes of crude oil and other flammable liquids, bolstered the design requirements for these trains, and more.

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Tags: hazmat, new rules, PHMSA, shipping

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