Thursday, October 22, 2015

Markup of HR 3763 Scheduled

Earlier today the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee announced that it would be holding a markup hearing for HR 3763, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015. There are no amendments currently listed for consideration, but that will certainly change before the hearing starts tomorrow morning.

As I noted earlier today there are five sections in this lengthy bill that may be of specific interest to readers of this blog:

• Sec. 7005. Wetlines.
• Sec. 7010. Thermal blankets.
• Sec. 7011. Comprehensive oil spill response plans.
• Sec. 7012. Information on high-hazard flammable trains.
• Sec. 7014. Ensuring safe implementation of positive train control systems.


Section 7005 would require the Secretary to withdraw the proposed rule described in the notice of proposed rulemaking issued on January 27, 2011, entitled “Safety Requirements for External Product Piping on Cargo Tanks Transporting Flammable Liquids” (76 FR 4847-4854) {§7005(a)}. Paragraph (b) would allow the Secretary to initiate a new rulemaking on the subject.

Thermal Blankets

Section 7010 would require the Secretary to issue regulations requiring that each DOT 117 tank car and each unjacketed tank car modified to the DOT 117R specification be equipped with “an insulating blanket with at least 1⁄2-inch-thick material that has been approved by the Secretary” {§7010(a)} in accordance with 49 CFR 179.18(c).

Comprehensive Oil Spill Plans

Section 7011 would add §5111 to 49 USC Chapter 51 requiring the Secretary to draft new regulations “to require any railroad carrier transporting a Class 3 flammable liquid to maintain a comprehensive oil spill response plan” {new §5111(a)}. The plan would be made public, but the Secretary would allow certain information in the plan to be withheld from the public, including “security-sensitive information, including information described in section 1520.5(a) of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations” {new §5111(d)(2)(B)}. Nothing in this section address fire fighting planning.

Information on High-Hazard Flammable Trains

Section 7012 would require the Secretary to issue regulations implementing the SERC notification requirements set out in “Emergency Order Docket No. DOT–OST–2014–0067”. The bill would specifically require those regulations to address protection “from public release of proprietary information and security-sensitive information [49 CFR 1520.5]” {§7012(a)}

Positive Train Control System Implementation

Section 7014 is very similar to HR 3651 that I described earlier. There are two major differences. The provisions for allowing the Secretary to further extend the deadline past 2018 on a by railroad basis have been removed. Secondly there is a great deal more specificity in this version as to what information the railroads will be required to provide in their revised plan for implementing PTC by December 31st, 2018.


I remain very disappointed in the failure of Congress to realize that there is a difference in responding to an oil spill (where the task is isolate and clean up the spilled oil) and dealing with the frequently fiery and explosive aftermaths that we have been seeing with many (certainly not all) of the crude oil train derailments.

There has not been any significant public outcry about the oil spilled in these accidents. With the exception of some very brief comments about oil getting into rivers, the news about these derailments has all been about the fires and explosions or the threat of fire and explosions. The public and news media have been focused on the more visible (and potentially more deadly) aspects of these accidents which the Congress has studiously ignored.

This bill should certainly at least have some sort of study requirement for planning on preventing and suppressing fires in these crude oil spills. 

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