PHMSA has published a list of special permits that have been delayed for 180 days or more. Each application is identified along with the expected date of completion and the reason for the delay.
The Office of Hazardous Materials Safety received applications for the modification of special permits. The sections affected, modes and transportation, and nature of the applications were all previously published in the Federal Register and were not repeated in this notice.
Comments will be accepted until December 14, 2015.
The Federal Railroad Administration has issued an interim interpretation to clarify the locomotive engineer and conductor qualification and certification regulations regarding the vision standards and testing. This document focuses on further evaluation of any person that fails to meet the vision threshold criteria and provides guidance for designing valid, comparable, and reliable field tests that will be able to determine if those who do not meet the threshold criteria can perform their duties safely. Comments will be accepted through January 25, 2016.
The final rule, which is effective December 23, 2015, issued by PHMSA makes corrections to editorial errors, minor regulatory changes and provides improved clarity to certain provisions of the HMR. This rule is intended to enhance accuracy and reduce any misunderstanding of the current rules. The amendments made are non-substantive changes that do not impose new requirements.
Stewartstown Railroad (STRT) has petitioned the FRA for a waiver of compliance from part 215 (railroad freight car safety standards), part 223 (safety glazing standards), and part 224 (reflectorization of rail freight rolling stock) of the federal railroad safety regulations.
STRT owns 7.4 miles of track that runs between Stewartstown and New Freedom Pennsylvania. Volunteers have made upgrades and repairs to portions of the track, rolling stock, and locomotives. Currently STRT is planning on using less than a mile of the track for tourist railroad operations. Neither the Plymouth locomotive or the caboose being used will exceed ten miles per hour. As more of the track is restored and upgraded STRT will expand the route to include these sections. The caboose being used in the passenger excursions was constructed more than 50 years ago. In order to keep this car in service STRT is requesting a waiver of compliance from part 215.
The caboose does not meet the current glazing requirements due to the construction date. STRT stated in the waiver of compliance petition for part 223 that there is no history of vandalism and they do not interchange equipment so retrofitting the caboose to meet the current glazing standards would be too expensive.
STRT has also petitioned for a waiver of compliance on part 224 because there is currently no freight service on this line and are there plans to have freight service on this line in the future.
FRA does not plan on holding a public hearing on this matter but interested parties may submit comments until December 23, 2015.
The Federal Railroad Administration has recently become aware that the window exits on passenger rail cars have not been operating as they should be. When pulled, the emergency handle becomes detached from the window gasket. In some cases the gasket was difficult to remove or just broke into several pieces.
Upon investigation, it became clear that some railroads did not fully understand or were just not following the federal regulations on inspection, testing, and maintenance of the window exits. Railroads are supposed to use the sampling method that conforms with a formalized statistical test method.
FRA does not feel that this issue would have impacted the passenger’s ability to open the window in an emergency.
FRA is publishing this notice in an effort to remind passenger train operators of the existing regulatory requirements on inspecting, testing, and maintenance of the window exits.
Kansas City Southern Railway is petitioning the FRA for a waiver of compliance on the accepted practice of stop/start rail testing. KCS would like to start a 3 year pilot test process of nonstop continuous testing that would begin on November 1. The test process would take place on the main tracks between Kansas City Missouri and Heavener Oklahoma on the Pittsburg subdivision and Heavener subdivision. Upon completion the test process will then expand to include the Shreveport Subdivision in Louisiana. KCS is intending to test the subdivisions within a 30 – 45 day frequency.
A bimonthly report that includes the in-service rail failure ratios, a report on the miles tested, and the frequency of the testing will be produced for the managers of FRA’s Rail and Infrastructure Integrity Division.
The data collected from the nonstop continuous rail testing vehicle will be analyzed from a remote location facility by experts who are experienced in reviewing Rail Flaw Detection test data. KCS believes nonstop continuous rail testing provides the ability to test track faster and more regularly.
The Surface Transportation Board is holding an informal meeting with shippers and stakeholders from November 16 until December 7. This meeting will give stakeholders the opportunity to voice their comments regarding the proposed rules for reporting railroad service performance data. STB will also take this opportunity to discuss what types of data will be the most useful to the public and to evaluate how railroads monitor performance. STB Chairman Daniel Elliot feels these meetings will “allow open and candid conversations between STB staff and stakeholders regarding the highly technical data questions at issue here.”
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) issued a statement in response to a report published earlier this month by Waterkeeper Alliance in which claims were made that their members identified 250 railway bridges located on known oil train routes across 15 states with potential deficiencies that included slumping, vibrating, and crumbling concrete as trains passed over them. The article included photos of bridges with what appeared to be cracked and decayed foundations. It is important to note that in this article Waterkeeper Alliance acknowledged that their report was based solely on visual inspections performed by untrained members. Inspecting railway bridges is a complicated process and can only be accurately performed by individuals that have specialized training. Making such assumptions without this training is both misguided and misleading.
AAR wants to remind the public that these bridges, regardless of their age or appearance, were built to handle far heavier loads than are currently being carried by trains today and that inspections of these bridges are strictly monitored by the Federal Railroad Administration.
AAR went on to say that the public needs to remember that Waterkeeper Alliance is vehemently opposed to fossil fuels and used this document to advance their goal of eradicating fossil fuels.
On November 17, 2015 The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) will be holding a briefing that will be open to the public to discuss the Danish Maritime Forum. This meeting will also include a closed-door discussion on two international container shipping issues, a briefing on the FMC-Transpacific Stabilization Agreement Semi-Annual Meeting and a regulatory review of Ocean Common Carrier & Marine Terminal Operator Agreements Subject to the 1984 Shipping Act.
PHMSA received six appeals in response to the new tank car standards that were published in May. Of those appeals, only five were reviewed. One was withdrawn and the others were submitted by DGAC, ACC, AAR, AFPM, Columbia River Treaty Tribes and Northwest Treaty Tribes.
One of the issues discussed in the appeals focuses on concern over the definition of HHFT. DGAC and ACC believe the new definition is entirely too broad and should be adjusted to only include railroad operations and not tank car specifications.
DGAC feels that the shippers and railroads will have no way of knowing if the tank cars they are offering to a carrier will be assembled into a manifest train that will meet the criteria of HHFT, which now has additional requirements to ensure the cars comply with the new standards. DGAC would also like the term and definition of HHFUT (high hazard flammable unit train) to be eliminated because it is unnecessary and was not proposed in the NPRM. In addition, DGAC is also requesting the speed restrictions listed in the final rule only apply to crude oil and ethanol trains because imposing speed restrictions on all flammable liquid trains will create delays in rail operations.
American Chemistry Council (ACC) would like PHMSA to revise the final rule to clarify retrofitting existing tank cars only applies to those carrying ethanol or crude oil and not to those that carry other class 3 flammable liquids. ACC feels that by removing retrofitting requirements on Class 3 flammable liquids other than crude oil and ethanol would reduce the capacity issues facing shops and would also provide greater harmonization with Transport Canada’s analogous retrofit schedule.
American Association of Railroads (AAR) opposes the final rule because it allows shippers to load Class 3 flammable liquids in DOT-111 tank cars that don’t meet the new standards as long as those cars are not placed in an HHFT. This puts unnecessary burden on railroads as they have to continuously analyze each train that is carrying Class 3 flammable liquids in DOT-111 tank cars. AAR is asking PHMSA to ban the use of DOT-111 tank cars from transporting all Class 3 flammable liquid materials.
PHMSA and FRA responded to the appeals stating that they disagree with the statements submitted in the appeals and feel the new rule was issued after careful consideration of comments submitted during the rulemaking process and the risks flammable liquids pose. Both agencies acknowledge that shippers and carriers are going to face new challenges regarding the new regulations but believe that by working together all parties should be able to comply with the final rule. The statement went on to say that both agencies feel that limiting the scope of rulemaking to include only crude oil and ethanol not only fails to align with the intent and applicability of the Hazardous Materials Regulations it is also short-sighted and could potentially lead to inconsistencies and safety concerns later on.
PHMSA has denied the request to remove the definition of HHFUT. The definition, while not expressly proposed in the NPRM, was developed based on the comments received on the NPRM and a careful cost analysis. PHMSA feels that the definition is within the scope of the NPRM proposal.
AAR feels that all tank cars transporting flammable materials should be retrofitted to DOT-117R requirements. Shippers feel that only those cars that transport crude oil or ethanol should be retrofitted. PHMSA feels the final rule is a balance between the two opinions. The rule requires retrofitting all tank cars in crude oil and ethanol service plus the 354 tank cars in PG III service by estimating roughly 10 percent of trains transporting PG III commodities might meet the HHFT definition, and thus, that 10 percent of the cars would require retrofitting.
Read the complete 89 page document: Docket No. PHMSA-2012-0082 (HM-251)
On November 12, 2015 OSHA will be holding a public meeting in preparation for the 30th session of the UN Sub-Committee of Experts on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. The UNSCEGHS meeting will be held on December 9-11 in Geneva, Switzerland. Comments and information from this public meeting will be considered at the upcoming meeting in Geneva. Members of the Regulatory Cooperation Council will also be in attendance this week to discuss the status of Canada’s GHS policy and procedures.
In addition, PHMSA and DOT will be holding a public meeting to discuss proposals for the 48th session of UN Sub-Committee of Experts on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods that will be held from November 30-December 9 in Geneva, Switzerland. Comments will be collected at this meeting regarding potential new work items for the international agenda to be discussed in Geneva. Interested parties are asked to pre-register for the meeting and will be permitted to participate using the conference call in or live meeting options. Phone numbers and access codes were published in the Federal Register under Docket No. OSHA-H022k-2006-0062.
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority petitioned the Federal Railroad Administration for a waiver of compliance from 49 CFR parts 240 and 242. Their relief is contingent on implementing and participating in the Confidential Close Call Reporting System pilot project. The project, C3RS, is designed to encourage crew members and railroads to report all close calls. SEPTA would like the reporting crew members and railroad to be protected from disciplinary actions and/or sanctions as a result of the information provided.
At this time FRA does not anticipate scheduling a public hearing but will be accepting any comments from interested parties until December 24, 2015.
As a direct result of the derailment in West Virginia earlier this year the Federal Railroad Administration is issuing a safety advisory in an effort to remind track owners, track maintenance personnel, and rail flaw detection equipment operators how important it is that everyone comply with rail management programs and engineering procedures dealing with rail head surface conditions during rail flaw and track inspections. FRA is also reminding track owners to make sure rail flaw detection equipment operators are trained properly.
The derailment in West Virginia was caused by a broken rail, which resulted from a vertical split head. FRA believes this derailment could have, and should have, been prevented. Rail flaw detection equipment indicated flaw conditions at that location in December 2014 and January 2015. Unfortunately, the operator did not perform the on ground examination of the defect because he felt the reading was a false positive. Had the operator understood and identified the indications for various rail flaw conditions he would have reported the defect to the track owner. At that time the owner would have repaired or replaced the rail which would have prevented the derailment.
The Environmental Protection Agency has granted DuPont a reissuance of exemption to land disposal restrictions for three Class I hazardous injection wells on their Pontchartrain site in Laplace, Louisiana. DuPont has shown, with a reasonable degree of certainty, there will be no migration of hazardous constituents from the injection zone. The exemption will be valid until December 31, 2050 unless the EPA finds reason to terminate ahead of the expiration date.
Prior to the final decision being made, EPA announced a comment period that was open until October 5. No comments were received and there is no Administrative Appeal.
BNSF Railway Company has petitioned the FRA to make some changes to its current list of designated locations for brake system repairs. These designated areas are listed as “nearest location where the needed repairs can be effectuated” for freight cars with air brake systems or components that become defective en route. The list has not been updated in several years. Since the previous update there have been several changes to accessibility, infrastructure, staffing and safety.
FRA will be accepting comments from interested parties until December 9, 2015.
In September 2015 Graham-White Company, a manufacturer of electric locomotive parking brakes, petitioned the FRA for a waiver of compliance on 49 CFR 231.27(a)(2), which requires hand brake wheels be affixed to the input shaft using a square taper fit not less than 7/8″ square. Graham-White believes that their key and shaft design provides an equal or greater amount of safety than what is specified in 49 CFR 231.27. They are asking for relief from the hand brake shaft regulation and be permitted to use the key and shaft design that is currently in service on Graham-White electric parking hand brakes.
At this time FRA has no plans to hold a public hearing on the matter but will accept comments from interested parties until December 24, 2015.
The comment period for the EPA’s proposed rule concerning the management and disposal of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals has been extended to December 24, 2015. In an effort to improve compliance and enhance the health of the public and the environment, the EPA is proposing several revisions to existing regulations. The revisions include tailoring regulations to focus on specific issues experienced by hospitals, pharmacies and other health care facilities, and clarifying the current regulation concerning the reverse distribution mechanism used for unused or expired pharmaceuticals.
The comment period for the EPA’s plans to make improvements to hazardous waste generator regulations has been extended to December 24, 2015. EPA is making the adjustments and changes in an effort to improve compliance and enhance protection of both the environment and public health. The revisions will include addressing current gaps in the regulations, allow more flexibility to hazardous waste generators in order to allow processing waste in a more cost effective manner, adjust the current regulations to make them easier to read and follow, and deleting those regulations that apply to programs that are no longer in effect.
The comment period for the American Trucking Association’s application for preemption determination regarding a permit for the NYFD to transport hazardous materials through New York City, transshipment of such materials from New York City, and the fees associated with the permit. PHMSA will now be accepting comments until December 4, 2015.