Friday, August 5, 2016

S 3187 Introduced – Rail Hazmat Safety

Last month Sen. Merkley (D,OR) introduced S 3187, the Mandate Oil Spill Investigations and Emergency Rules (MOSIER) Act of 2016. The naming of the bill makes it clear that it was introduced in response to the crude oil train derailment near Mosier, OR in June of this year. The bill addresses rail hazmat investigations, emergency orders and a crude oil volatility standard.

NTSB and Hazmat Spills

Section 2 of the bill amends the NTSB authorization language in 49 USC 1118. It increases the funding authorization of the bill from the latest value (FY 2008, $92,625,000) to $108 million per year for 2018 thru 2020. Of that amount $2 million would specifically be set aside for “the costs associated with carrying out railroad accident investigations and investigations of significant railroad incident” {new §1118(a)(3)}.

Section 3 of the bill would amend the NTSB’s authorization to conduct transportation accident investigations under 49 USC 1131 to specifically require investigations of railroad accidents that involve “a significant release of hazardous materials into the environment within a close proximity to communities, personal property, or critical landscapes” {revised §1131(a)(1)(c)}.

Emergency Orders

Section 4 of the bill would expand the explicit authority of the Secretary of Transportation to issue emergency orders by adding the words “or reoccurring situation” to the description of when the Secretary may issue an emergency order under 49 USC 20104.

Crude Oil Volatility

Section 5 of the bill would require the Secretary to establish, within 90 days of the passage of the bill, “a national standard for the maximum volatility of crude oil to be permitted to be shipped by rail based on the safest practicable standard” {new §20154, Note: that section number is already taken, it should have been §20168}.

Moving Forward

Neither Merkley nor his co-sponsor, Sen. Wyden (D,OR), are members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the committee to which the bill was assigned for consideration. This means that the bill is unlikely to be considered in that Committee, especially considering how late we are in the session.

Even if the bill were to make it out of committee it would not make it to the floor of the Senate for consideration due to the expected opposition to the imposition of a volatility standard.


This bill is certainly more of a political ploy to gain points with (and monetary support from) the voters back home in Oregon than a real attempt to have an effect on the safe transportation of crude oil. The naming of the bill makes that perfectly clear.

The NTSB authorization language is another dead giveaway that neither Senator had any intention of this bill being considered in Committee. Federal agency authorization bills are always written by senior members of the committee with oversight authority. Attempting to usurp that power and prestige is a sure way to get a bill buried and forgotten.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */