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The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) yesterday rescinded a mandate that would have required crude-oil trains to use electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking systems.The PHMSA took the action after it conducted a congressionally mandated review of the regulation's impact, and determined that the expected costs of requiring ECP brakes would be "significantly higher" than the expected benefits, according to a PHMSA press release.Rescinding the mandate does not affect the ability of railroads to use ECP brakes, PHMSA officials said.ECP brakes issue electronic signals to simultaneously apply and release brakes throughout the length of a train instead of each car applying brakes individually — a system some consider more effective in emergency situations.The Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act required further analysis of the ECP brake requirements, including physical testing, to see how much more effective ECP brakes are in comparison to other brake systems.The FAST Act also required the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to determine whether the ECP brake requirements were justified based on costs and benefits. The updated analysis — which incorporated new findings from the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) testing of ECP braking systems — determined that costs outweighed the benefits based on current economic conditions.Efforts to repeal the implementation of ECP braking systems have been underway since the Trump administration took office in January 2017. In December 2017, the USDOT repealed a May 2015 FRA rulemaking that would have required the installation of ECP braking systems. In October 2016, the U.S. Government Accountability Office recommended that the USDOT acknowledge uncertainty in its revised economic analysis of ECP brakes, and collect data on railroads' use of the systems. Industry stakeholders — such as the Association of American Railroads — had claimed that the USDOT initially overestimated the benefits.
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