Thursday, February 27, 2014

Another DOT Emergency Order on Crude Trains

On Tuesday, the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Transportation issued an emergency order placing additional restrictions on the shipment of crude oil. The order requires

• The proper testing (“conducted with sufficient frequency and quality”) and classification of petroleum products prior to them being offered into transportation; and
• The classification of all bulk crude oil shipments (UN 1267, Petroleum crude oil, 3)  as either Packing Group I or II.

Proper Classification

The first requirement deals with the proper classification of hazardous materials. In numerous places in the Code of Federal Regulations there is a requirement that hazardous materials offered for transportation be ‘properly classified’ {see for instance 49 CFR 171.2(e)}. While §173.121 outlines the procedures for testing material to determine to which packing group it belongs, there is no specific requirement in the HMR for each load of material to be physically tested.

The first requirement in this Emergency Order requires that shippers:

“Shall, prior to offering into transportation, ensure that the petroleum products (i.e., petroleum crude oil) is properly tested and classed under current regulations, in accordance with the requirements of 49 CFR parts 172 and 173.”

What is not specifically spelled out here is whether each load of petroleum crude oil in a tank truck or rail car will have to be tested, or if DOT will allow each batch of crude oil from a storage tank, or from a well head to be tested.

No Packing Group III

The current entry for Petroleum Crude Oil in the hazardous materials table (§172.101) allows for crude oil to be classified as either PG I, II, or III depending on its physical characteristics outlined in §173.121. In removing the option for classifying crude oil as PG III effectively removes the option of using AAR Class 203W and 211W tank car for the transportation of crude oil; those are tank cars designed for ‘low hazard liquid’ hazardous materials {§284.241}. The use of those cars for PG III materials with a flash point above 100° F is authorized by special provision B1 {172.102(c)(3)}.

Public Notice

I am sure that the railroads were directly notified of this emergency order, but it has not yet been published in the Federal Register, nor is it available on either the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) or the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) web sites. Even finding it on the DOT web site takes specific searching; it is not prominently listed. It was brought to my attention by a brief article at This is hardly proper public notice.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */