Friday, July 26, 2013

THUD Amendments – 7-25-13

During floor action in the Senate yesterday on S 1243, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014 (THUD), two new amendments were introduced that might be of interest to the chemical transportation safety and cybersecurity communities; one of which was passed by unanimous consent.

Cybersecurity Amendment Adopted

The Senate adopted a cybersecurity amendment as part of an en bloc adoption of three amendments without debate. SA 1803 (Cong Rec 7-25-13 Pg S5975) was introduced by Sen. McCain (R,AZ) and it was almost identical to SA 1780 that he introduced yesterday. The same withholding of cybersecurity funds pending the same report is being required by the new amendment. The only difference is that it does not list which congressional committees should be the recipients of the report; instead is specifies that it should be submitted “to the appropriate committees of Congress”.

HAZMAT Transportation Amendment

Sen. Menendez (D,NJ) introduced SA 1812 (Cong Rec 7-25-13, Pg S 5977) that would require the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on the safety of transporting hazardous materials over movable railroad bridges. The study would be specifically required to address {§155(b)}:

• The adequacy of span locking and its relation to the practice of trains passing over bridges displaying a stop signal; and
• The adequacy of training received by train crews to inspect their route before passing over a bridge displaying a stop signal.

This amendment is almost certainly related to the Paulsboro, NJ train derailment in November of last year that involved a movable bridge. According to news reports there were a number of previously reported problems with track alignment and signals on that bridge before the accident. Earlier this month an NTSB public hearing also addressed this issue.

Interestingly, the completed report is not required to be submitted to Congress, but to be placed on the FRA web site. Not that I’m a big fan of reports to Congress, but a report placed on a web site (while probably more available to the public) will be easier for Congress to ignore in consideration of any revisions to hazmat transportation safety laws. 

This is another amendment that will probably be approved without discussion or vote.

Moving Forward

The Senate will resume consideration of S 1243 on Monday afternoon.

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