May 20, 2014: Independent Study Shows Bakken Crude Oil Is Similar To Other Light Crude Oils

North Dakota Petroleum Council has completed a study that now shows Bakken crude oil is not only similar to other light crude oils but also meets both the current federal regulations as well as tank car design standards for shipping flammable liquids by rail. More than 150 samples of crude were collected from various wells and rail terminals. Some of the characteristics that were analyzed in this study include vapor pressure, API gravity, initial boiling point, light ends content and flash point. This study showed no significant change in transit, little geographical variation and no evidence of corrosiveness. The results of these tests were consistent with results from a previous test of 250 samples of crude oil. API members have already shared those test results with the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In a separate test that was completed by industry experts working with DOT and Transport Canada it was determined that vapor pressure alone is not a decent indicator of crude oil flammability. This test, although it is preliminary, showed that both newer and legacy DOT-111 tank cars are designed to withstand vapor pressures of 100 psi or greater. The highest level that was measured in the NDPC study was only 14.4 psi.

American Petroleum Institute Article

May 13, 2014: Charges Filed in Lac-Megantic Derailment

Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, Ltd. and three of its employees have been formally charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death as a result of the July 6, 2013 derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. The employees being charged include the engineer, Thomas Harding, the manager of train operations, Jean Demaitre, and the railway’s traffic controller, Richard Labrie. If they are convicted they will be facing possible life in prison. The railroad also faces possible fines. Canadian law does not specify a minimum or maximum amount of fines that can be imposed so it will be up to the presiding judge to determine that amount should they be convicted. This derailment resulted in the worst railway accident that Canada has seen in nearly 150 years. More than 60 of the DOT-111 tanker cars became loose and traveled downhill for nearly seven miles before derailing. This caused five of the tankers to explode which resulted in 47 deaths and 30 buildings being leveled. There will eventually be a settlement fund set up to compensate the victims and their families as well as to repay the cleanup costs. Early estimates show the total cost for environmental cleanup could be between $200 and $500 million but the insurance payout that is available for wrongful death, personal injury, property damage, fire suppression and environmental impact comes to just $25 million.

Click here to read the full article in the Montreal Gazette

April 09, 2014: FRA to Issue Proposed Rule on Minimum Train Crew Size

The Federal Railroad Administration announced a proposed rule that would require two-person crews on crude oil trains and intends to establish minimum crew size standards for most passenger rail and main line freight cars. Although the current FRA regulations do not specify a minimum number of crew staff, the industry practice is generally to have at least two crew members on over-the-road operations.

Following the Lac-Megantic derailment last summer the Department of Transportation requested three Railroad Safety Advisory Committee Working Groups hold an emergency meeting to evaluate and consider proposals that would further enhance railroad safety. The deliberations focused on appropriate train crew size, securement and hazardous materials issues. Two of the Working Groups succeeded in producing recommendations that were accepted by the full RSAC. These recommendations will be considered in future rulemaking. In addition, the full RSAC also approved four other recommendations that focused on identification, classification, operational control and handling of certain shipments.
To read the full article click here

May 7, 2014: (EO)(SA) DOT, FRA, PHMSA – Crude By Rail, Emergency Response, & DOT111 Tank Cars

US DOT ISSUED AN EMERGENCY ORDER REQUIRING RAILROADS TO NOTIFY STATE EMERGENCY RESPONSE COMISSIONS ABOUT TRANSPORTATION OF AT LEAST 35 TANK CARS OF CRUDE BY RAIL THROUGH STATE

Emergency order requires railroads transporting crude to notify state emergency response commissions; safety advisory urges use of tank cars with highest integrity

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued an Emergency Order requiring all railroads operating trains containing large amounts of Bakken crude oil to notify State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) about the operation of these trains through their states.

Additionally, DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a Safety Advisory strongly urging those shipping or offering Bakken crude oil to use tank car designs with the highest level of integrity available in their fleets.  In addition, PHMSA and FRA advise offerors and carriers to the extent possible to avoid the use of older legacy DOT Specification 111 or CTC 111 tank cars for the shipment of Bakken crude oil.

“The safety of our nation’s railroad system, and the people who live along rail corridors is of paramount concern,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “All options are on the table when it comes to improving the safe transportation of crude oil, and today’s actions, the latest in a series that make up an expansive strategy, will ensure that communities are more informed and that companies are using the strongest possible tank cars.”

Effective immediately, the Emergency Order (Docket Number DOT-OST-2014-0067), requires that each railroad operating trains containing more than 1,000,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil, or approximately 35 tank cars, in a particular state to provide the SERC notification regarding the expected movement of such trains through the counties in that state.

The notification must include estimated volumes of Bakken crude oil being transported, frequencies of anticipated train traffic and the route through which Bakken crude oil will be transported.  The Emergency Order also requires the railroads provide contact information for at least one responsible party at the host railroads to the SERCs.  The Emergency Order advises railroads to assist the SERCs as necessary to share the information with the appropriate emergency responders in affected communities.

Emergency Order
Federal Registry Emergency Order Announcement

FRA AND PHMSA ISSUED A JOINT SAFETY ADVISORY RECOMMENDING ONLY THE MOST DURABLE DOT111 TANK CARS BE USED IN CRUDE BY RAIL SERVICE

FRA and PHMSA also issued a joint Safety Advisory, Number 2014-01, to the rail industry strongly recommending the use of tank cars with the highest level of integrity in their fleet when transporting Bakken crude oil.

The Department of Transportation continues to pursue a comprehensive, all-of-the-above approach in minimizing risk and ensuring the safe transport of crude oil.  FRA and PHMSA have undertaken more than a dozen actions to enhance the safe transport of crude oil over the last ten months. This comprehensive approach includes immediate and long-term steps such as: launching “Operation Classification” in the Bakken region to verify that crude oil is being properly classified; issuing safety advisories, alerts, emergency orders and regulatory updates; conducting special inspections; moving forward with a rulemaking to enhance tank car standards; and reaching agreement with railroad companies on a series of immediate voluntary actions they can take by reducing speeds, increasing inspections, using new brake technology and investing in first responder training.

Safety Advisory
Federal Registry Safety Advisory Announcement

April 28, 2014: (NPRM) FMCSA – Use of Electronic Records and Signatures

FMCSA issued a proposed rule to allow the use of electronic records and signatures to satisfy certain FMCSA documentation requirements. The amendments would permit the use of electronic methods to sign, certify, generate, exchange or maintain records so long as the documents accurately reflect the information in the record and can be used for their intended purpose. This proposed rule would apply only to those documents that FMCSA’s regulations obligate entities or individuals to retain; it would not apply to forms or other documents that must be submitted directly to FMCSA.

The following parts have been amended to facilitate electronic records:

• 370 Principles and practices for the investigation and voluntary disposition of loss and damage claims and processing salvage
• 371 Brokers of property
• 375 Transportation of household goods in interstate commerce; consumer protection regulations
• 376 Lease and interchange of vehicles
• 378 Procedures governing the processing, investigation, and disposition of overcharge, duplicate payment, or over collection claims
• 379 Preservation of records
• 387 Minimum levels of financial responsibility for motor carriers
• 389 Rulemaking procedures—Federal motor carrier safety regulations
• 390 Federal motor carrier safety regulations; general
• 391 Qualifications of drivers and longer combination vehicle (LCV) driver instructors
• 395 Hours of service of drivers
• 396 Inspection, repair, and maintenance

For example, Paragraph (b)(1) of § 387.7 requires insurers and motor carriers to give 35 days’ notice prior to cancelling the financial responsibility policies required in § 387.9. Currently, this section establishes mail as the only method of communicating cancellations. FMCSA proposes to amend this section by replacing the word ‘‘mailed’’ with the more technologically neutral term ‘‘transmitted,’’ and ‘‘Proof of mailing’’ with ‘‘Proof of transmittal’’ thus establishing parity between mailing and other methods of transmission as proof of cancellation.

Part 397, Transportation Of Hazardous Materials; Driving And Parking Rules, was not amended. This may be because the authority to modify this part is required to be done under the hazardous materials transportation law by the federal motor carrier law. DGAC is evaluating whether to comment to FMCSA and/or PHMSA to similarly amend Part 397, and what documentation requirements in Part 397 might be within the scope or beneficial to change.

This proposed rule responds in part to the President’s January 2011 Regulatory Review and Reform initiative and would implement the Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA) and the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E–SIGN). Comments are due on or before June 27, 2014.

PP 23306 – 23316, Docket No. FMCSA–2012–0376, FR Doc. 2014–09376, Affecting 49 CFR Parts 370, 371, 373, 375, 376, 378, 379, 387, 389, 390, 391, 395, 396, and 398
Click here to see entire proposed rule

May 2, 2014: Upcoming Public Meeting for OSHA Announced

An informal public meeting of the U.S. Interagency GHS Coordinating Group will be held on June 11, 2014 from 1:00 – 4:00 pm. The goal of this meeting is to provide updates on GHS related issues. This meeting will also give stakeholders an opportunity to express their views both orally and in writing concerning the developing U.S. Government positions for the upcoming UN Sub-Committee of Experts on the Global Harmonized System meeting. During the meeting stakeholders will also be given an opportunity to discuss any issues or concerns they may have that are related to OSHA’s activities in the U.S. – Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC). Some of the topics that are currently scheduled to be discussed are:
– Review of Working Papers
– Correspondence Group Updates
– Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC)

The location of the meeting is as follows:
DOT Headquarters Conference Center – Conference Room 3
West Building
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20590

All attendees are asked to pre-register for this meeting. Registration forms can be found by clicking on the following link: Pre-Registration: Public Meeting – UN45 and GHS27
Click here to read the full notice on upcoming meetings

May 2, 2014: Upcoming Public Meeting for PHMSA Announced

PHMSA will be holding a public meeting on June 11, 2014 from 8:30 – 11:30 am. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss proposals in regards to the upcoming 45th session of the U.N. Sub-Committee of Experts in the Transport of Dangerous Goods which is taking place in Geneva, Switzerland from June 23 – July 2, 2014.

Location of meeting:
DOT Headquarters Conference Center – Oklahoma Room
West Building
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20590

All attendees of the public meeting are asked to pre-register. Registration forms can be found by clicking on the following link
Pre-Registration: Public Meeting – UN45 and GHS27

Click here to read the full notice of upcoming meetings

April 29, 2014: Transportation Bill Heads to Congress

Earlier this year President Obama and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced a four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal that would address the nation’s infrastructure deficit. The overall goal of this plan is to increase safety and efficiency while providing greater access to ladders of opportunity without adding to the current deficit. This will be accomplished by relying on President Obama’s pro-growth business tax reforms. Today Secretary Foxx unveiled the Grow America Act.
This bill is already gaining support from various government agencies. PHMSA Safety Administrator Cynthia Quarterman stated “On a typical day more than 6.1 million tons of hazmat move throughout our nation’s transportation network. The Grow America Act promotes efficiencies and improvements that will help PHMSA ensure that the transport of hazmat by road, rail, air and water continues to move safely and efficiently.” Therese McMillian, Deputy Federal Transit Administrator, said “The Grow America Act will put thousands of Americans to work on repairing and expanding our aging transit infrastructure, while training women, minorities and veterans to fill the jobs gap in transit through innovative new workforce development programs.” Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo stated “The Grow America Act will provide rail with a predictable, dedicated funding source and tools needed to drive the next generation of rail safety and development. It lays out a comprehensive strategy to eliminate risk on railroads through data-driven enforcement, proactive safety programs that identify risk in advance, and strong capital investment.”
Read the full article here: US Department of Transportation