Wednesday, April 2, 2008

DOT Proposed Rule Touches on IST

In yesterday’s blog I mentioned the Proposed Rule that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued yesterday concerning new standards for railroad tank cars transporting PIH (Poisonous Inhalation Hazard) chemicals. I noted that this was not technically a chemical security measure, but that I thought it would add to the railroads call for mandatory IST provisions in the upcoming CFATA of 2008 legislation.


DOT Looks for IST to Aid Rail Safety


The discussion in this proposed rule directly touches on IST in looking at alternative means to increase the safety of PIH shipments. First they looked at a 2005 agreement between Dow Chemical and UP, Dow’s largest rail service provider. This agreement formed the basis for a partnership between the two companies to “address rail safety and security improvements for the transportation of hazardous materials” (page 17833).


The partnership goals outlined in that agreement included:


·        “reducing idle times for hazmat shipments by 50 percent in high-threat urban areas;”

·        redesigning Dow's customer supply chains to cut in half the amount of ``highly hazardous chemicals'' shipped by 2015;” (Italics added)

·        “eliminating all nonaccidental leaks of certain hazardous materials in three years; and”

·        “having hazardous material shipments monitored by satellite tracking tags and other sensors.”


Dow’s supply chain initiative includes “evaluating the potential for co-location of production and consuming facilities; the use of pipelines instead of rail in some instances; and the conversion of highly hazardous products to less hazardous derivatives before shipping”. All of these actions clearly meet the definition for IST as specified in the current version of CFATA of 2008.


In this proposed rule DOT requests industry comments on “the extent to which other companies are voluntarily implementing measures to reduce the transportation safety risks associated with the transportation of PIH materials in tank cars”. They are particularly interested current or planned efforts to “to modify or redesign supply chains, reduce the number of shipments and the time-in-transit of shipments, or enhance shipment visibility and tracking”. DOT certainly appears to be supporting IST provisions to ease their safety problems with PIH chemicals.


Railroad Accidents Involving Hazardous Materials Releases


There is an extensive review of three major railroad accidents resulting in the release of PIH chemicals. These were the 2002 anhydrous ammonia release in Minot, ND (page 17826), the 2004 chlorine release in Macdona, TX (page 17827), and the 2005 chlorine release in Graniteville, SC (page 17827).


While each of these incidents resulted in deaths and injuries, the discussion in theproposed rule notes that each of these incidents could have been much worse (page 17829). Specifically they noted that the incidents shared similarities that minimized the ‘catastrophic results’. The rural locations, time of day, and weather conditions all acted to mitigate the effects of the release.


Since this is a ‘safety’ rule not a ‘security’ rule that DOT is proposing the discussion does not mention that there are differences between an accidental release and a terrorist attack. The terrorist would make every effort to ensure that those mitigating factors do not come into play during a successful terrorist attack.  


Anyone that is responsible for preventing a terrorist attack, mitigating the effects of an attack or planning the response to an attack should certainly read this section of the proposed rule (pages 17826 thru 17831). This is especially true for anyone dealing with PIH chemicals.


The Railroad Industry's Liability


The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has been a vocal and powerful voice calling for the imposition of rules requiring the replacement of PIH chemicals where ever possible. The reason for this is very simple; the railroads are financially responsible for releases of these chemical in the event of an accident or attack while the chemicals are in transit.


This fact keeps coming up throughout the proposed rule; the PHMSA is in a good position to understand the industry that they regulate. There is a good, concise discussion of this issue in Section VIII of the proposed rule (page 17831). Anyone interested understanding why the railroads are such vocal proponents of imposed IST should read this short discussion.

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