Wednesday, January 30, 2013

OMB Approves Extension of TSA Rail Security ICR

Yesterday the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved a three year extension of the information collection request (ICR) for the rail security reporting requirements for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The four data collections supported by this ICR are:

Chain of Custody Documentation for transfers of railcars carrying ‘rail security-sensitive materials (RSSM) between shippers, carriers and receivers in High Threat Urban Areas (HTUA) (§1580.107);

Location and Shipping Information Reporting Burden for railcars carrying RSSM (§1580.103);

Security Concerns Reporting including security incidents, suspicious activities, and threat information (§1580.105); and

Rail Security Coordinator (RSC) Annual Reporting RSC designations and contact information (§1580.101).

These four are all required for freight railroads handling RSSM materials. The last two also apply to passenger rail systems.

ICR Changes

TSA reported that there were no changes in the proposed extension of the ICR other than an increase in the estimated number of entities reporting. As I noted in my earlier blog post about the initial 60-day public notice associated with this ICR, this is a less than accurate description of the proposed burden description. While there was an 17,603 (20%) increase in expected responses there was a decrease of 234,922 hours of burden associated with this ICR. There is no explanation in the public documentation of this ICR of where the increase in responses would come from or how there will be such a drastic (81.3%) decrease in the amount of time that the affected entities will spend on these reporting requirements. If TSA had listed the burden expectations for each of the four collections covered under this ICR we might be better able to understand these changes.

There is one other change in the ICR submission and approval that is not mentioned in the documentation for the requested ICR extension. The estimated cost burden was decreased from $9,388,567 to $0.00. I don’t think this change is due to changes in regulatory burden estimated at TSA; we have seen a total absence of estimated cost burden in all of the recent ICR renewals that I have looked at. It looks like the Obama Administration has changed their interpretation of the cost burden to only address the cost of establishing the reporting mechanism in the regulated community, not the cost of maintaining those systems and the costs associated with the actual reporting of the required information. It would be interesting to see the OMB’s justification for that change.

Information Sharing

OMB reported that they approved this ICR renewal with changes. The only change documented is an interesting requirement for TSA to look at the sharing of the collected information with the Department of Transportation (PHMSA in particular). The ICR extension approval notes that:

“Prior to resubmission, TSA should coordinate with DOT and PHMSA to explore whether there might be any opportunities to share information related to this collection. TSA should provide a joint briefing (with PHMSA) to OMB on this topic before 2/1/2014.”

It is hard to understand what freight rail safety information is covered by this ICR, but if any of this information will legitimately assist PHMSA in regulating the safe transportation of this limited segment of hazardous materials, the information should certainly be shared with PHMSA. Of course, some of this material is sensitive security information (SSI) and will have to be appropriately protected in the information sharing process.

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