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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

U.S. Rep. Denham: Where are the rail-safety rules?


During a hearing yesterday of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, Chairman Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) called on the Obama administration to hasten the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) release of new rules that will govern tank cars and the transportation of hazardous materials such as crude by rail.

The subcommittee's hearing was called to focus on the ongoing Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) efforts to develop rules and regulations as required under the federal MAP-21 law, as well as the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011.

Denham opened the hearing by expressing frustration over the long wait for the new rules.

"I have heard too many times from industry and safety advocates that the Department of Transportation needs to move more quickly to implement the safety provisions Congress has passed," Denham said in a prepared statement. "It's unusual to hear that industry wants to be regulated, and is pushing for rules to be completed. But the reality is companies can't invest in new equipment, in new employees, and in new ventures without regulatory certainty."

He thanked the FRA's Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg for visiting California last week at his request to hear from local leaders concerned about when new crude-by-rail rules will be issued "so that the nation can move forward in creating a safer rail system," he said.

Also, noting that key agencies responsible for developing the rail safety rules are being served by acting administrators, Denham called on President Obama to nominate permanent administrators for the FRA and PHMSA. Timothy Butters is acting administrator at PHMSA.

"We appreciate [Feinberg and Butters'] service and our frustration has nothing to do with either of them personally," Denham said. "But these are very important times and we need certainty in these agencies' leadership. Yet, the administration has not formally nominated anyone for these top positions."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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