Category Archives: Hazardous materials emergencies

Government deregulation without limits – FAA comes under criticism

Repost from The Register-Guard, Eugene, OR
[Quote: “When something bad happens, the government will take action — but over time those regulations and requirements wind up being dropped, reduced or delayed. The 2017 fatal Amtrak derailment near Tacoma, the 2016 oil train derailment in the Columbia River Gorge, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the 2008 financial crisis and countless other events could have been prevented.”]

Deregulating? DeFazio’s watching

Posted Mar 27, 2019 at 12:01 AM

The Boeing 737 jet crashes raise troubling questions that go far beyond one company’s safety record and one federal agency’s watchdog role.

The history of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft suggests it is an example of how the government’s regulation-and-oversight pendulum has swung too far. The Federal Aviation Administration has lacked both the money and the inclination to adequately oversee aircraft development, instead relying heavily on companies to do their own testing.

Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio is demanding answers. The Springfield Democrat chairs the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The committee’s investigative staff is doing research, and DeFazio then plans to hold hearings.

“This is really, really raising questions about the FAA as a watchdog,” he said in a meeting with The Register-Guard editorial board.

A faulty sensor is being investigated as one cause, and Boeing is working on a software fix. The two-sensor system was developed as a safety feature to prevent a plane from stalling. But it appears the failure of just one sensor can send the aircraft into a powerful, possibly irreversible dive unless the pilots override the system within 40 seconds, according to a New York Times report this week.

DeFazio promises a tenacious investigation. Among the questions are why the system was designed this way, whether the aircraft was unsafely rushed to market, and why the FAA and Boeing did not require extensive retraining of pilots.

“This is the first time Boeing has put in a system that took over the plane automatically,” he said. “And they didn’t think they needed to tell people about it — because it’s different from any other Boeing plane ever made?

“Obviously, maybe not the best idea.”

For years, the FAA has lacked sufficient inspectors and has outsourced much of that responsibility to the manufacturers. But the FAA is not unique. We now have a government that relies on the honor, integrity and self-supervision of the industries it regulates.

When something bad happens, the government will take action — but over time those regulations and requirements wind up being dropped, reduced or delayed. The 2017 fatal Amtrak derailment near Tacoma, the 2016 oil train derailment in the Columbia River Gorge, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the 2008 financial crisis and countless other events could have been prevented.

“It’s repeated time and time again,” DeFazio said. “There are limits to deregulation, which in many cases have been exceeded.”

Oregon has its own history of unwatchful eyes. The Cover Oregon health insurance fiasco could have been averted through closer, more-knowledgeable oversight and insistence on stronger testing of the technology throughout its development. Better oversight — not to mention much-better planning in the first place — might have saved the state from wasting millions of dollars in the Highway 20 reconstruction between the valley and the coast.

Each time, government and the public vow to learn from these lessons. Then we relax and we forget.

When DeFazio and his congressional colleagues find the answers they are seeking, our government should heed them.

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    LPG Tank Cars derail in Martinez – could have been a catastrophic event

    Derailment in Martinez: the nightmare no one wants

    By Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent – 05/01/2018
    LPG tank car derailment Martinez 2018-05-01 (KTVU Fox 2 News)

    Early this morning, at least two tank cars carrying liquid petroleum gas (LPG) derailed while backing into the Shell Refinery in Martinez, CA.  (See brief KTVU News coverage.)

    Thank our lucky stars that those tank cars backing into the refinery did not tip over or leak!  Had they done so, and a spark ignited a fire, the accident might’ve resulted in a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion, or “BLEVE” (blɛviː/ BLEV-ee).

    Sharon Kelly described a BLEVE this way on DeSmogBlog: “As liquids in a metal tank boil, gasses build up, pressurizing the tank even despite relief valves designed to vent fumes. Tanks finally explode, throwing shrapnel great distances, and spitting out burning liquids that can start secondary blazes.”

    BLEVEs were responsible  for the massive degree of destruction and loss of life in Lac Magantic, Canada.  If those Martinez tank cars had caught fire and erupted, the whole Shell Refinery might’ve blown up!  Downtown Martinez, the AMTRAK station, and the 680 freeway might’ve been threatened.

    LPG tank car derailment Martinez 2018-05-01 (KTVU News)

    Photos of the derailed cars show the 4-digit Hazardous Material Identification Placard: 1075.  The Emergency Response Guidebook, published by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration identifies the code for 1075 on p. 31 as one of the following flammable materials:

    Butane, Butylene Isobutane, Isobutylene, Liquefied petroleum gas, LPG, Petroleum gases, liquefied Propane Propylene.

    This is EXTREMELY dangerous.  On p. 170 of the Emergency Response Guidebook, emergency responders are cautioned:

    In fires involving Liquefied Petroleum Gases (LPG) (UN1075); Butane, (UN1011); Butylene, (UN1012); Isobutylene, (UN1055); Propylene, (UN1077); Isobutane, (UN1969); and Propane, (UN1978), also refer to BLEVE – SAFETY PRECAUTIONS (Page 368).

    BLEVE is defined : “A boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE, /ˈblɛviː/ BLEV-ee) is an explosion caused by the rupture of a vessel containing a pressurized liquid that has reached temperatures above its boiling point.”

    Page 368-369 of the Emergency Response Guidebook reads as follows:

    BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion)
    The following section presents, in a two-page format, background information on BLEVEs and includes a chart that provides important safety-related information to consider when confronted with this type of situation involving Liquefied Petroleum Gases (LPG), UN1075. LPGs include the following flammable gases: Butane, UN1011; Butylene, UN1012; Isobutylene, UN1055; Propylene, UN1077; Isobutane, UN1969; and Propane, UN1978.

    What are the main hazards from a BLEVE?
    The main hazards from a propane or LPG BLEVE are:
    – fire
    – thermal radiation from the fire
    – blast
    – projectiles
    The danger from these decreases as you move away from the BLEVE centre. The furthest reaching hazard is projectiles.

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      Train tank cars carrying LPG derail near Shell refinery in Martinez

      Repost from KTVU.com Fox News 2, Oakland, CA
      [Editor: This derailment of tank cars carrying Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) could have resulted in extreme hazardous consequences.  See my analysis here. – RS]

      Freight train derails near Shell refinery in Martinez


      [Editor: apologies for the advertisement at start of this video… – RS]

      By: Leigh Martinez, MAY 01 2018 05:22AM PDT, VIDEO POSTED: MAY 01 2018 05:13AM PDT, UPDATED: MAY 01 2018 06:55AM PDT

      MARTINEZ, Calif. – A freight train derailed in Martinez early Tuesday causing two tankers to lean off the tracks.  It is believed the train was backing into the Shell refinery when it went off the tracks at Shell and Marina Vista avenues.

      Two cars have their wheels off the tracks and were leaning into other rail lines.

      This was not a hazmat situation because there is no sign of leakage and no injuries were reported.

      The rail line runs next to Amtrak and Union Pacific lines. There was no immediate word if those commuter trains are affected.

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