Regulatory Update — DOT Announces Major Proposal on Safe Transportation of Crude Oil and Other Flammable Materials

Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released the details of a comprehensive proposed rule to improve the safe transportation of large quantities of flammable materials by rail — particularly crude oil and ethanol. This is the latest in a series of actions the agency has taken in response to last summer's tragic incident in Lac Megantic, Canada, that killed 47 people and several subsequent incidents in the U.S.

The first document, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), proposes enhanced tank car standards, a classification and testing program for mined gases and liquids, and new operational requirements for high-hazard flammable trains (HHFT) that include braking controls and speed restrictions. Specifically, within two years, the agency proposes the phase out of the use of older DOT 111 tank cars for the shipment of packing group I flammable liquids, including most Bakken crude oil, unless the tank cars are retrofitted to comply with new tank car design standards.

The second document, an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), seeks further information on expanding comprehensive oil spill response planning requirements for shipments of flammable materials. Click here for the DOT's full press release announcing the rulemaking, including a more detailed summary of the provisions. Both the NPRM and ANPRM are available for review here and will be open for 60 days of public comment. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration does not intend to extend the comment period as the agency considers the issue to be urgent.

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