Tag Archives: Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio

US House Committee: Members fume over delayed oil tank car rule

Repost from CQ Roll Call
[Editor: Significant quote by Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio on new tank car safety rule: “Get it done, get it done now. Start the production. Create jobs here in America.”   – RS]

Members Fume Over Delayed Oil Tank Car Rule

By Tom Curry, Feb. 3, 2015 
Rep. Jeff Denham, R- Calif., chairman of the House Transportation Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials (Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call)
Rep. Jeff Denham, R- Calif., chairman of the House Transportation Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials (Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call)

Another House hearing and another regulatory agency under bipartisan fire for its slowness in issuing an eagerly awaited rule that will have sweeping effects on several industries.

Tuesday’s hearing of the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads Pipelines and Hazardous Materials was a chance for members and industry spokesmen to assail the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) not issuing a rule that would tell railroads and rail car manufacturers the standard they need to meet for new oil tank cars.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ranking member Peter DeFazio said that even though PHMSA has known that the older tank cars, designated as DOT-111’s, “are not adequate or safe since 1993, PHMSA has yet to promulgate a rule for new standards. In fact, the industry itself is so frustrated that they’ve proposed a new standard to the agency.”

But the agency couldn’t act quickly, he said and the rule is “lost somewhere in the bowels of the administration between the agency and the trolls over at the Office of Management and Budget who will further delay the ruling.”

PHMSA has “managed to mangle the rule by merging it together with operational issues which are much more difficult to deal with and controversial,” DeFazio said.

PHMSA should simply issue a rule on tank cars: “Get it done, get it done now. Start the production. Create jobs here in America,” he said.

What’s on people’s mind is the possibility of another Lac Megantic accident, the Quebec oil tank car derailment and explosion that killed 47 people in 2013.

Greg Saxton, senior vice president of rail car manufacturer Greenbrier, said “if we were to have additional derailments that caused more fatalities, I think we could lose our franchise, the trust that the American people put in us to do this.”

Saxton said, “You’ve got to get beyond this uncertainty” about the tank car standard.

He added that “economic forces, the market, will crush an over-packaged commodity,” meaning that market forces will lead shippers to use the older, less safe, and less costly DOT-111 cars until PHMSA requires that they upgrade to a more crash-resistant model.

Greenbrier has urged PHMSA to quickly adopt what’s called the “Option 2” design of a tank car with thicker steel tank shells and other safety features.

Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham, R-Calif., told Saxton that he, too, wants to see PHMSA and OMB move quickly on the rule.

But he said he wanted to make sure “that there is not a misperception” among the American people that “our current tank cars are not safe” and “that our industry does not have a safe record.”

He noted that Greenbrier, the leading car manufacturer, could only build 8,000 new cars a year, so it would take perhaps a decade for that company and others to build new cars to replace all the DOT-111 cars.

Denham also said the public shouldn’t think “that there’s some magic, quick, fast track to get all of these new tank cars” on the nation’s railroads very quickly.

    DeFazio Blasts U.S. DOT for Failing to Address Rail Tank Car Safety

    Press Release from Congressman Peter DeFazio

    DeFazio Blasts U.S. DOT for Failing to Address Rail Tank Car Safety

    Will request an Inspector General audit of PHMSA safety programs

    From Press Release, 22 Jan 2015

    Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx, urging him to take immediate action to address rail tank car safety and other significant pipeline and hazardous materials safety hazards.

    “Despite numerous incidents involving the transportation of crude oil and other flammable materials by rail, subsequent NTSB safety recommendations, and an industry petition for new tank car design standards, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) failed to take action until a train transporting crude oil in DOT-111 tank cars in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killed 47 people and completely destroyed the town center,” said DeFazio. “Here we are almost 15 months later, and we still do not have a final rule.”

    DeFazio also takes issue with PHMSA’s failure to address longstanding, significant safety issues that extend to pipelines.

    In multiple pipeline accident investigations over the last 15 years, the NTSB has identified the same persistent issues–most of which DOT has failed to address. Each time, Congress has been forced to require PHMSA to take action, most recently in the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011. Yet three years later, almost none of the important safety measures in the Act have been finalized, including requirements for pipeline operators to install automatic shutoff valves and to inspect pipelines beyond high-consequence areas.

    “For these reasons, I will soon be sending a letter to the DOT Inspector General (IG), requesting a thorough audit of PHMSA’s pipeline and hazardous materials safety program, including an evaluation of the agency’s effectiveness in addressing significant safety issues, congressional mandates, and NTSB and IG recommendations in a timely manner; the process PHMSA utilizes for implementing such mandates and recommendations; the sufficiency of PHMSA’s efforts to coordinate with the modal administrations and address safety concerns raised by those administrations; and any impediments to agency action, such as resource constraints.”

    DeFazio urges DOT to take immediate action to address these serious safety issues. He writes that the tens of millions of Americans who rely on the Federal Government to protect their safety and health and our nation’s natural resources rightly deserve more than proposed rules that languish in the Federal bureaucracy.

    The full letter to Secretary Foxx is below:

    January 22, 2015

    The Honorable Anthony Foxx
    Secretary of Transportation
    U.S. Department of Transportation
    1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
    Washington, D.C. 20590

    Dear Secretary Foxx:

    I write to express my serious concerns with the repeated failure of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to address longstanding and undisputed pipeline and hazardous materials safety issues.

    The rule regarding Enhanced Tank Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains is a prime example. The DOT maintains finalizing this rule remains one of its highest priorities, yet the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) now reports that publication of a final rule is not anticipated until May 12, 2015. In fact, the DOT has not even transmitted a draft final rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review.

    The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has raised concerns about the “high incidence of failure” of DOT-111 tank cars since 1991. In fact, over the last 10 years, the NTSB has investigated or is currently investigating seven accidents involving the transportation of crude oil and other flammable materials in DOT-111 tank cars, including an October 2006 train derailment in New Brighton, Pennsylvania, which caused the release of 485,278 gallons of ethanol that ignited and burned for almost 48 hours; an October 2007 ethanol train derailment in Painesville, Ohio; a June 2009 ethanol train derailment and fire in Cherry Valley, Illinois, which killed one person, injured nine others, and resulted in a mandatory evacuation of about 600 residences within a half-mile radius of the accident site; an October 2011 ethanol train derailment in Tiskilwa, Illinois; a July 2012 mixed freight train derailment in Columbus, Ohio, which released 53,000 gallons of ethanol; a December 2013 train derailment and fire in Casselton, North Dakota, which resulted in the release of 476,000 gallons of crude oil and the evacuation of 1,400 residents; and, an April 2014 train derailment in Lynchburg, Virginia, which spilled 30,000 gallons of crude oil in and around the James River.

    The NTSB has been made aware of (but is not investigating) five additional train accidents that occurred between August 2008 and February 2014 in the U.S., which involved the release of crude oil, causing significant environmental damage and fires.

    In March 2011, the Association of American Railroads petitioned PHMSA to conduct a rulemaking on new tank car design standards, which seemingly languished in the bowels of the agency until 2013, when a train transporting crude oil in DOT-111 tank cars in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killed 47 people and completely destroyed the town center. Coincidentally, two months later, PHMSA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on new tank car design standards.

    Here we are almost 15 months later, and we still do not have a final rule. Frankly, I am concerned that opposition to the more contentious portions of the rule will only lead to further delays, possibly even litigation. That will end up postponing implementation of a final rule while the concerns of States and local communities are growing.

    Moreover, these delays have significant implications for rail car manufacturers. It will take time for them to adjust to the standards proposed in the rule, which in turn will have a rippling effect on shippers who are putting off purchases of new tank cars until the new design standards are finalized. As I have said before, I believe that you should seriously consider severing this rule and propose one rule on stronger tank car design standards and another rule to address the operational changes proposed in the NPRM. That is sure to move this issue forward and address the more immediate dangers posed by the current DOT-111 tank cars.

    Additionally, my concerns regarding PHMSA’s failure to address longstanding, significant safety issues extend to pipelines, as well. In multiple pipeline accident investigations over the last 15 years, the NTSB has identified the same persistent issues, most of which DOT has failed to address on its own accord. Each and every time, Congress has been forced to require PHMSA to take action, most recently in the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-90). Yet, three years later, almost none of the important safety measures in the Act have been finalized, including requirements for pipeline operators to install automatic shutoff valves and to inspect pipelines beyond high-consequence areas.

    For these reasons, I will soon be sending a letter to the DOT Inspector General (IG), requesting a thorough audit of PHMSA’s pipeline and hazardous materials safety program, including an evaluation of the agency’s effectiveness in addressing significant safety issues, congressional mandates, and NTSB and IG recommendations in a timely manner; the process PHMSA utilizes for implementing such mandates and recommendations; the sufficiency of PHMSA’s efforts to coordinate with the modal administrations and address safety concerns raised by those administrations; and any impediments to agency action, such as resource constraints.

    In the interim, I urge you to take immediate action to address these serious safety issues. The tens of millions of Americans who rely on the Federal Government to protect their safety and health and our nation’s natural resources rightly deserve more than proposed rules that languish in the Federal bureaucracy. If you need additional information or have questions regarding this letter, please have your staff contact Jennifer Homendy of my staff at 202-225-3274.

    Sincerely,

    PETER DeFAZIO
    Ranking Democratic Member