A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that involves a stricter set of rules for crude-by-rail (CBR) train movements and other shipments of “flammable fuels,” designated as HHFT (high-hazard flammable trains) is now in the process of becoming a rule. With this introduction by the Department of Transportation (DoT), which occurred last Wednesday, a 60-day comment period is now in effect.

These new rules come into play after a series of incidents killed residents and workers when trains carrying crude oil derailed and exploded.

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If the DoT’s proposed rule for the transport of flammable materials goes into effect, it could cost the industry about $5.2 billion, industry experts said.

The proposed rules, which contain several options, cover train speeds, mandatory testing of oil and other products, and design standards for tank cars. Among other assertions, the proposed rule calls for older DoT-111 tank cars (pre-CPC-1232 cars, the rail industry’s voluntary standard in effect since October 2011) used for the shipment of Packing Group I flammable liquids, including most Bakken crude oil, to retire within two years unless retrofitted to comply with updated standards.

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“Today’s proposal represents our most significant progress yet in developing and enforcing new rules to ensure that all flammable liquids, including Bakken crude and ethanol, are transported safely,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. He pointed out the record amount of CBR shipments related to North Dakota’s Bakken activity, noting the oil produced in that region “is on the high end of volatility compared to other crude oil.”

In addition to enhanced tank car standards, the NPRM also calls for a classification and testing program for mined gases and liquids and new operational requirements for HHFTs that include braking controls and speed restrictions.

It seeks further information on expanding comprehensive oil spill response planning requirements for shipments of flammable materials. “Given the urgency of the safety issues addressed in these proposals, PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) does not intend to extend the comment period,” DoT said.

DoT now seeks public comment on speed restrictions, and there are no fewer than five options. Option one is a 40 mph limit for all HHFT moves in all areas. A second option is a 40 mph limit for HHFT moves in HTUAs (high-threat urban areas, defined in 49 CFR 1580.3 as an area comprising one or more cities and surrounding areas including a 10-mile buffer zone). Option three is a 40 mph limit in areas with a population greater than 100,000.

A fourth option is a 50 mph limit for HHFTs in which all tank cars meet the yet-to-be determined standards. The fifth option is a 30 mph restriction for HHFTs that do not comply with possible “enhanced braking requirements.”

The NPRM “proposes to require all HHFTs to be equipped with alternative brake signal propagation systems. Depending on the outcome of the tank car standard proposal and implementation timing, all HHFTs would be operated with either electronic controlled pneumatic brakes (ECP), a two-way end of train device (EOT), or distributed power (DP).”

The proposed new tank car standards also contain several options. DoT said it “proposes new standards for tank cars constructed after October 1, 2015, and that are used to transport flammable liquids as part of an HHFT—e.g., thermal , top fittings, and bottom outlet protection; tank head and shell puncture resistance.”

PHMSA is requesting comment on three options for enhanced tank car standard requirements:
• Tank Car Option 1 would have 9/16-inch steel, would be outfitted with electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes, and would be equipped with rollover protection.
• Tank Car Option 2 would also have 9/16-inch steel but would not require ECP brakes or rollover protection.
• Tank Car Option 3 is based on the 2011 CPC-1232 industry standard and has 7/16-inch steel, and does not require ECP brakes or rollover protection.

DoT also “proposes to require existing tank cars that are used to transport flammable liquids as part of an HHFT be retrofitted to meet the selected option for performance requirements. Those not retrofitted would be retired, repurposed, or operated under speed restrictions for up to five years, based on packing group assignment of the flammable liquids being shipped by rail.”

Other provisions involve:
• Defining the term “high-hazard flammable train” (HHFT). DoT proposes a definition of an HHFT as “a train carrying 20 or more tank carloads of flammable liquids (including crude oil and ethanol).”
• Better classification and characterization of mined gases and liquids. DoT proposes “development and implementation of a written sampling and testing program for all mined gases and liquids, such as crude oil, to address frequency of sampling and testing; sampling at various points along the supply chain; sampling methods that ensure a representative sample of the entire mixture; testing methods to enable better analysis, classification, and characterization of material; statistical justification for sample frequencies; and duplicate samples for quality assurance.” There would be a requirement “to certify that a sampling and testing program is in place, document the testing and sampling program, and make program information available to DoT personnel, upon request.”
• Rail routing risk assessment. DoT proposes “that carriers be required to perform a routing analysis for an HHFT that would consider 27 safety and security factors and select a route based on findings of the route analysis.”
• Notification to State Emergency Response Commissions. DoT proposes “to codify DoT’s May 2014 emergency order that requires trains containing one million gallons of Bakken crude oil to notify State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) or other appropriate state delegated entities about the operation of these trains through their states.”

Pressure has grown during the past 12 months for improved handling of CBR products, triggered in large part by the crash and explosion of a train in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013, which killed 47 people. Since then, other incidents, though less severe, have generated media attention and subsequent congressional hearings.

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