Tuesday, January 10, 2017

OMB Approves PHMSA Oil Volatility ANPRM

On Monday, the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) announced that it had approved for publication an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) submitted by DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration. PHMSA is considering this rulemaking in response to a petition for rulemaking from the Attorney General of the State of New York.

The ANPRM that will probably be published in the Federal Register in the coming weeks will see information from the public and the regulated community on a variety of questions related to the appropriateness and use of Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) testing and establishing a maximum RVP standard for shipping crude oil by rail.

The timing of this rulemaking may make for an interesting look at how the Trump Administration will look at the regulatory process for chemical transportation safety. It is generally assumed that the new administration will be very limited in its use of the regulatory process, rather letting ‘market forces’ control how businesses conduct their operations.

This ANPRM is likely to be published before the upcoming inauguration of Donald Trump as President. The public comment period will thus be started under the Obama Administration, but it will be Trump’s DOT Secretary (probably Elaine Cho) who makes the determination of whether to proceed with this rulemaking process or deny the petition for rulemaking.

Those political questions aside, there is still the technical question of the appropriateness of RVP sampling and testing. As I pointed out in an earlier blog post the results of RVP testing can  be extremely variable based upon differences in the sampling regime. If a vapor pressure standard is needed for crude oil shipments (and that is a political question), it would seem to be important that the method used to obtain that information should be the most reliable and replicable method. Hopefully, PHMSA will address this in their request for information in the ANPRM.

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