Tuesday, February 12, 2013

FRA Direct Final Rule Increases Fines

Today the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a final rule in the Federal Register (78 FR 9845-9848) that is “adjusting both the ordinary maximum penalty and the aggravated maximum penalty that applies when assessing a civil monetary penalty for a violation of the Federal hazardous materials transportation laws or a regulation,  special permit, or approval issued under those laws” (78 FR 9845). This is being done in accordance with the provisions of Title III of Division C of MAP-21 (Pub. L. 112-141)—the Hazardous Materials Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2012.

The following changes are being made:

• The maximum civil penalty was increased from $50,000 to $75,000 for a knowing violation;
• The maximum civil penalty was increased from $100,000 to $175,000 if the violation results in death, serious illness or severe injury to any person, or substantial destruction of property; and
• The minimum civil penalty of $250 was eliminated, except that a minimum civil penalty of $450 still applies to a violation related to training.

Since the law changing these amounts became effective on October 12, 2012 these changes in fines are effective for all offenses that occur on or after that date. The effective date of this rule is today.

The FRA is proceeding direct to a final rule since they have no latitude in making these changes. This means that a public comment and reply process would have no possible effect on changing the rule. Only Congress can modify this requirement.

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