Saturday, September 23, 2017

PHMSA Publishes Hurricane Recovery Waivers

The DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) published three Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) waivers in Monday’s Federal Register (82 FR 44696-44697, 82 FR 44699-44700, and 82 FR 44697-44698; available on-line today). These waivers are in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean-up efforts for Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

The Waivers

Each waiver identifies the areas affected based upon President Trump’s emergency declarations for Texas and Louisiana (Waiver #1); Florida, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and the Virgin Islands (Waiver #2); and Georgia (Waiver #3). The waiver only applies to the specific areas identified in those declarations and their subsequent amendments.

Each waiver provides that: “non-radioactive hazardous materials may be transported to staging areas within 50 miles of the point of origin. Further transportation of the hazardous materials from staging areas must be in full compliance with the HMR.” Each waiver remains effective for 30 days from September 1st (Waiver #1), September 8th (Waiver #2), or September 10th, 2017 (Waiver #3).


I do not recall seeing these types of waivers after previous hurricanes. They certainly seem like a good idea. It provides the EPA with some amount of flexibility in how they structure their recovery efforts to isolate and remediate unsafe hazardous materials that are found during their cleanup efforts.

Unfortunately, I can find nothing on the EPA’s web sites about the establishment of the collection points mentioned in these waivers. Neither the latest news release for Maria and Irma recovery, nor the hurricane specific web sites for Maria and Irma (NOTE: There is apparently no similar site for Harvey) contain any mention of the PHMSA waivers or collection points. This is particularly unhelpful as the PHMSA waivers quickly approach their expiration.

It seems that the Federal government still has some lessons to learn in handling the coordination of their response activities (and the publication of those activities) within the government.

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