PHMSA Proposes New Safety Oil Spill Response Plans

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), has announced proposed regulations for Oil Spill Response Plans and Information Sharing for High-Hazard Flammable Trains (HHFTs) to improve oil spill response readiness and mitigate effects of rail incidents involving petroleum oil.

The proposed rule would update and clarify the comprehensive oil spill response plan requirements for certain trains, and would require railroads to share information with state and tribal emergency response commissions to improve community preparedness for potential accidents.  The rule would also incorporate a test method for initial boiling point for flammable liquids into the hazardous materials regulations.

The proposed regulations include a number of commonsense measures that will improve safety.  The rule would expand the comprehensive oil spill response plan requirements under the Clean Water Act to certain HHFT trains based on the amount of crude oil being transported.  These changes mean that certain HHFT trains would be required to have comprehensive plans, instead of basic plans that are currently required.

It would also 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 also 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).

Meantime, the DOT has announced over $3.7M in Hazardous Materials Instructor Training (HMIT) and Supplemental Public Sector Training (SPST) grants. The HMIT grants fund the training of instructors who then train private-sector hazardous materials employees. The SPST grant funds national nonprofit fire service organizations to train instructors to conduct hazardous materials response training programs for local responders.

The Hazmat Grants Program is funded by registration fees collected from hazardous materials (hazmat) shippers and carriers who offer for transportation or transport certain hazmat in intrastate, interstate, or foreign commerce in accordance with 49 CFR Part 107, Subpart G.