Thursday, September 15, 2016

HR 5786 Introduced – Rail Spill Fund

Back in July Rep. DeFazio (D,OR) introduced HR 5786, the Community Protection and Preparedness Act of 2016. The bill would establish a Rail Account within the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund as well require actions by the DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration to improve the track inspection process.

Rail Account

Section 2 of the bill would add a new §5111 to 49 USC establishing a new Rail Account within the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund established under  26 USC 9509. The account would be funded by a $1500 fee charged to each shipper who offers flammable liquids for transportation in DOT 111 or CPC-1232 rail cars that have not been upgraded to the DOT 117R standard. The fee would be charged for each rail car used in such service during the previous fiscal year.

The bill would authorize expenditures from the Rail Account for response activities related to a flammable liquid accident incident to rail transportation. It would also provide authority for the Secretary of Transportation to use the Rail Account funds to provide grants to State and local governments for planning for, and training for, emergency response activities related to such incidents.

Rail Track Inspection

Section 3 of the bill would require DOT to issue regulations requiring Class I railroads “to inspect all track where an accident or incident involving the transportation of flammable liquids or material poisonous or toxic by inhalation by rail could affect a high consequence area” {§3(a)}. The inspections would be required to be completed by foot and “periodically, by a gage restraint measurement system” {§3(b)(2)}. The Secretary would determine the frequency with which such inspections would be required.

Section 4 of the bill would authorize the expenditure of ‘such funds as may be necessary’ by the FRA to hire two additional track inspection specialists per region.

Moving Forward

Neither DeFazio nor his two co-sponsors are members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, so it is extremely unlikely that this bill would be considered by the Committee. Flammable liquid shippers would be expected to vigorously oppose this bill as would Class 1 railroads, so the bill would be unlikely to pass in committee even if considered.


There have been a series of bills out of the Oregon congressional delegation recently concerning a Rail Account in the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (S 1175, HR 5762, and now this one). The only one that has even a remote chance of being considered in committee is the Senate bill and that has little chance of being considered on the floor of the Senate, especially this late in the session.

Both the Senate bill and the earlier House bill used an amendment to 26 USC 9509 (establishing the Trust Fund) to establish the Rail Account. This bill took a different approach and added the requirement to 49 USC instead of 26 USC. In the House this is important because it drastically reduced (from four for HR 5762 to one for this bill) the number of committees that would have to acquiesce to the bill being considered on the floor of the House. That is not much of an issue this year as the bill is not going to even be considered in committee. If the leadership of the House were to change next year (an admittedly outside chance) then such a change could make a difference in allowing the bill to come to the floor for a vote.

No comments:

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