Category Archives: U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads Pipelines and Hazardous Materials

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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    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.

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