PHMSA preempts Washington state's crude-by-rail law (5/12/20)


The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) yesterday issued a ruling that preempts Washington State's crude-by-rail law, allowing for the transport of crude by rail nationwide.

PHMSA announced federal hazardous material transportation law preempts Washington state's vapor pressure requirement for transportation of crude by rail, agency officials said in a press release.

A study conducted by Sandia National Laboratories concluded that imposing vapor press limits would not reduce the risks of transporting crude oil and other flammable liquids by rail, PHMSA officials said.

On April 28, the U.S. Department of Energy submitted its report on the Sandia lab's "Crude Oil Characterization Research Study" to Congress. U.S. Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer and U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, all Republicans representing North Dakota, previously made the case to PHMSA and U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for preempting Washington's law. They said the law would effectively block Pacific Northwest refineries as a destination for North Dakota Bakken crude. They also wrote to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee asking him to veto the law, claiming it lacked a scientific basis or solid legal foundation.

In a statement issued yesterday, the North Dakota lawmakers thanked PHMSA for its ruling.

"Today's decision is much needed good news for North Dakota's oil producers as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic and the global oil price war," they said. "Washington's legislation was an obvious example of overreach, not scientifically founded, and could have ultimately driven their state refineries to foreign sources of crude oil, further harming America's energy dominance."

Also yesterday, PHMSA announced it has withdrawn its January 2017 advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding vapor pressure for unrefined petroleum products and other flammable liquids. The agency's decision also stemmed from the Sandia study, as well as the review of public comments about the role of vapor pressure limits in the transportation of crude oil and other flammable liquids by rail.

"In its decision to withdraw the ANPRM, PHMSA is no longer considering vapor pressure limits for the transport of crude oil by rail," agency officials said in a press release.

Source: Progressive Railroading Daily News