Monday, February 7, 2011

S 158 Introduction – STB Reauthorization

Almost two weeks ago, Sen. Rockefeller (D, WV) introduced S 158, the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2011. This weekend the GPO finally printed a copy of the bill. Looking over the bill I did find one provision that might be of interest to the chemical security community; the requirement for the STB to conduct and report to Congress on a rail interchange study.

Section 210 requires the STB to “initiate a study of rail interchange rules, including car service, interchange, and other operating rules adopted and administered by the Association of American Railroads and the effect of those rules on the national rail system”. This could be of interest because of the effects these interchange rules can have on the decisions made by rail roads concerning the routing of TIH chemical shipments.

Since the STB is not directly involved in the enforcement of the hazmat rail routing rule, they might not understand the potential importance of these interchange rules. As a result they might miss subtle nuances of these rules that would make it easy to justify not shipping TIH chemicals on routes outside of major urban areas. Rerouting of TIH rail shipments out of these urban areas was one of the objectives of Congress when they directed TSA and FRA (in Section 1551 of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007) to establish rules to require carriers to “select the safest and most secure route to be used in transporting” ‘security sensitive materials’ like TIH chemicals.

It will be interesting to see if this provision is changed in the legislative process to clearly include a requirement to analyze the affect of these interchange rules on the route selection process for security sensitive materials.

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