Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New FRA-PHMSA Railroad Safety Advisory

Today the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a new Joint Safety Advisory in the Federal Register (78 FR 69745-69746) concerning safety and security plans for shipping Class 3 (flammable/combustible) hazardous materials by rail. This is a follow-up advisory to the one issued in July and the FRA Emergency Order 28 that was issued as a result of the “catastrophic railroad accident [that] occurred in Lac-M├ęgantic, Quebec, Canada” on July 6th.

Reiterate Old Guidance

There is really no new guidance offered in this Advisory. The FRA and PHMSA are reiterating the requirements for:

• The proper characterization, classification, and selection of a hazardous materials packing group as required by the Federal hazardous materials law (49 U.S.C. 5101-5128) and Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR parts 171-177); and

• The requirement that offerors of hazardous materials by rail and rail carriers should have reviewed and revised, as appropriate, their safety and security plans required under Subpart I of Part 172 of the HMR, including the required risk assessments, to address the safety and security issues identified in EO 28 and the First Joint Advisory.

Compliance Auditing

The only new information in this advisory is in the final paragraph describing the enforcement activities that FRA and PHMSA are undertaking in support of this and the earlier safety advisory and Emergency Order. Those activities include:

• ‘Operation Classification’ - unannounced inspections and testing by PHMSA and FRA to verify the material classification and packing group assignments selected and certified by offerors of petroleum crude oil;
• PHMSA-FRA joint audits to evaluate safety and security plans and to determine whether the plans address vulnerabilities highlighted in EO 28 and the First Joint Advisory; and
• FRA inspections to determine compliance with EO 28.

Ignores Alabama Derailment

It is interesting that there is no mention in this Advisory of the FRA investigation into the recent derailment of a crude oil unit train in Alabama. While that accident did not result in the loss of life or the destruction of non-railroad property seen in Canadian derailment, it is the first such incident being actively investigated by FRA. Or at least should be being investigated by FRA, there has been no public announcement of any such investigation.

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