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Rule on Crude-by-Rail Shipments Is Priority Over Hazmat Fee, Foxx Says
Posted at 12:33 p.m. on July 1, 2014
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says he won’t immediately push Congress to enact a proposal offered by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other mayors for a federal fee to be imposed on shipments of hazardous materials passing through cities.
“It’s something that needs to be explored,” but it won’t be an immediate priority, Foxx told reporters at a Christian Science monitor breakfast Tuesday morning. What the Obama administration needs to do immediately, Foxx said, is “push this rulemaking and try to get that done….” He was referring to a proposed rule from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration that will address operating requirements for trains transporting flammable materials, as well as new standards for railroad tank cars.
The proposed rule is under review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, part of Office of Management and Budget.
Emanuel, who served as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff from 2009 to 2011, said in January that his fee proposal was prompted by rail accidents including an explosion of Bakken crude oil last summer that killed 47 people in the Quebec town of Lac Megantic. Money collected from the fee would go to an “account to support rebuilding of America’s aging rail infrastructure to keep our communities safe,” according to the mayor’s office.
Foxx said Tuesday his department has too few resources to test and monitor shipments of hazardous materials.
“One of the things that we found with this situation with the Bakken crude is that we have several different agencies with equities even within DOT. And sometimes you need resources to do field testing and the agency that’s right on the front line like a PHMSA has a very small budget for testing. So then you have to go to FRA [the Federal Railroad Administration] and try to figure out whether they’ve got some resources.”
So he said the Obama administration has asked Congress for a $40 million “flexible fund to give us the ability to be nimble right now to develop a plan over two years to dramatically increase our efforts on the safety front….”
Asked whether the PHMSA rule on shipments of oil by rail will likely cause disruptions of the oil supply chain and higher prices for consumers, Foxx said he could not discuss specifics of what PHMSA has proposed.
But, he added, “What I’ve heard from industry is a strong desire to have certainty and clarity over which way the federal government is going to go here. And my impression is that once a rule is actually finalized and is put out there industry will adjust and will be able to do this much more safely, respecting the balance between safety and getting crude oil moving.”