Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-14-005
Details
Synopsis: On July 5, 2013, at 10:45 p.m. eastern daylight time, MMA freight train MMA-002 was proceeding eastbound on the MMA Sherbrooke Subdivision, en route from Montréal, Quebec, to Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. The train was 4,700 feet long and weighed more than 10,000 tons. The train was composed of 5 head-end locomotives, a special-purpose caboose equipped to remotely control the locomotives, 1 loaded boxcar used as a buffer car, and 72 US Department of Transportation (DOT) Specification 111 general service tank cars (DOT-111) loaded with petroleum crude oil. The waybills described the product in the tank cars as Petroleum Crude Oil, UN1267, Class 3, Packing Group III. The crude oil originated from a tank truck-to-rail car transloading facility in New Town, North Dakota, and was destined for an oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. The Canadian Pacific Railway transported the tank cars from New Town to Montréal, where the train was conveyed to the MMA with the same waybill information. About 11:00 p.m., the engineer stopped the train at the designated MMA crew change point at milepost 7.40 near Nantes, Quebec. He left the lead locomotive idling and then departed the area, leaving the train unattended on the mainline track. The track had a descending grade of about 1.2 percent toward the town of Lac-Mégantic. About 11:40 p.m., a nearby resident called the 911 emergency call center to report a fire on the idling locomotive. The local fire department responded, and the MMA dispatched an employee to assist the fire department personnel. About midnight, the responders initiated emergency shutdown procedures on the locomotive and extinguished the fire. The fire department and MMA personnel then departed the location, leaving the train unattended. Shortly before 1:00 a.m. on July 6, 2013, the unattended train started to move, and it gathered speed, rolling uncontrolled for 7.4 miles down the descending grade into Lac-Mégantic. As the train entered the center of Lac-Mégantic, it was moving well over the authorized speed. The boxcar and 63 loaded crude oil tank cars derailed near the center of Lac-Mégantic. The locomotives separated from the train and came to rest about 1/2 mile east of the derailment. At least 60 of the 63 derailed DOT-111 tank cars released about 1.6 million gallons of crude oil. Some of the spilled oil ignited immediately. The fire engulfed the derailed cars and the surrounding area. Forty-seven people died as a result of the fire, and nearby structures were destroyed or extensively damaged. The fire was extinguished by noon on July 7, 2013. About 2,000 people evacuated the surrounding area.
Recommendation: TO THE PIPELINE AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS SAFETY ADMINISTRATION: Revise the spill response planning thresholds contained in Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 130 to require comprehensive response plans to effectively provide for the carriers’ ability to respond to worst-case discharges resulting from accidents involving unit trains or blocks of tank cars transporting oil and petroleum products.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Unacceptable Response
Mode: Railroad
Location: Lac Megantic, Quebec, OF, Canada
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA13SR006
Accident Reports:
Report #: None
Accident Date: 7/6/2013
Issue Date: 1/23/2014
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: PHMSA (Open - Unacceptable Response)
Keyword(s): Hazmat

Safety Recommendation History
From: PHMSA
To: NTSB
Date: 7/2/2019
Response: -From Drue Pearce, Deputy Administrator: As noted above, final rule HM-251B revised the applicability of COSRP requirements to include trains carrying 20 or more loaded tank cars of liquid petroleum oil in a continuous block or a single train carrying 35 or more loaded tank cars of liquid petroleum oil throughout the entire train consist. Rather than specifying a threshold quantity per package or total quantity of petroleum oil, we linked the requirements to HHFTs carrying petroleum oil. In addition to revising the applicability, PHMSA adopted new requirements for COSRPs, including requirements to: • Develop a core plan and accompanying appendices. (PHMSA allowed compliance flexibility by allowing alternative plans, e.g., a state plan, so long as an equivalent level of safety is achieved.); • Certify consistency with the National Contingency Plan; • Certify the review of applicable Area (or Regional) Contingency Plans for each response zone; • Implement notification procedures and provide contact information; • Describe response and mitigation activities and identify persons' roles and responsibilities for the activities; • Certify that employees subject to a COSRP are trained; • Test equipment; • Develop exercise procedures consistent with PREP guidelines; and • Keep required records, review COSRPs, and submit COSRPs and any updates to PHMSA. For a comprehensive discussion of the changes adopted, please refer to the final rule. We believe the changes made improve a railroad's (i.e., the carrier's) ability to respond to worst-case discharges (as well as to a substantial threat of such a discharge) resulting from accidents involving unit trains or blocks of tank cars transporting oil and petroleum products.

From: NTSB
To: PHMSA
Date: 8/16/2018
Response: We note that your notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) for HM-251B includes potential revisions to 49 CFR Part 130 that would expand the applicability of a comprehensive oil spill response plan (OSRP) to high-hazard flammable trains (HHFTs). Specifically, the NPRM proposes modifying the threshold measure for comprehensive OSRPs to apply to the capacity of an entire train consist rather than to the capacity of a single package. We note that most HHFTs do not meet the current threshold for comprehensive OSRPs, and this proposed change would result in all HHFTs meeting the threshold limit. The proposed change is important to improve emergency response and preparedness; however, the NPRM was never placed into regulation and is on hold. Until the final rule is implemented, Safety Recommendation R-14-5 is classified OPEN--UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: PHMSA
To: NTSB
Date: 11/9/2016
Response: -From Marie Therese Dominguez, Administrator: On July 29, 2016, PHMSA published an NPRM titled, "Hazardous Materials: Oil Spill Response Plans and Information Sharing for High-Hazard Flammable Trains," in the Federal Register [81 FR 50068]. The NPRM proposes changes that would expand the applicability of comprehensive oil spill response plans based on thresholds of liquid petroleum oil that apply to an entire train consist. In accordance with the FAST Act, this action proposes to require railroads to share information about high-hazard flammable train operations with State and Tribal emergency response commissions, thus further advancing information sharing in support of bolstering community preparedness. With respect to Safety Recommendation R-14-6, PHMSA has long stressed that it is the offeror's responsibility, under § 173.22 of the HMR, to ensure that hazardous materials are properly classified. To reinforce this requirement with respect to unrefined petroleum-based products (e.g., crude oil), the HMR also require offerors to institute a sampling and testing program in accordance with § 173.41.

From: NTSB
To: PHMSA
Date: 9/27/2016
Response: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), Hazardous Materials: Oil Spill Response Plans and Information Sharing for High-Hazard Flammable Trains, published on July 29, 2016. This NPRM addresses issues raised in an August 1, 2014, advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding comprehensive oil spill response planning thresholds for high-hazard flammable trains (HHFT) and plan review by local and federal agencies. This NPRM also addresses local agency emergency planning and information sharing and guidance for offerors on classifying crude oil for hazardous materials transportation. Proposal Topic A—Oil Spill Response Plans Summary PHMSA is proposing to modernize the oil spill response planning (OSRP) requirements contained in 49 CFR part 130 to address the risk of increased shipments of large quantities of petroleum oil being transported by rail. The NPRM proposes to clarify requirements for comprehensive OSRPs and more closely align these requirements with the requirements of the Clean Water Act. This topic area proposes to address NTSB Safety Recommendations R-14-002 and -005, which were issued after the July 6, 2013, Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, train derailment. These safety recommendations read as follows: To the FRA: R-14-002 Develop a program to audit response plans for rail carriers of petroleum products to ensure that adequate provisions are in place to respond to and remove a worst-case discharge to the maximum extent practicable and to mitigate or prevent a substantial threat of a worst-case discharge. To PHMSA: R-14-005 Revise the spill response planning thresholds contained in Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 130 to require comprehensive response plans to effectively provide for the carriers’ ability to respond to worst-case discharges resulting from accidents involving unit trains or blocks of tank cars transporting oil and petroleum products. Response Federal Railroad Administration Oversight The proposed rule would require each railroad subject to comprehensive oil spill response planning requirements to prepare and submit to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) a plan that includes resources and procedures for responding to a worst-case oil discharge to the maximum extent practicable and to a substantial threat of such a discharge. Proposed new 49 CFR 130.111 would require the FRA to explicitly approve OSRPs. This section specifies a process for the FRA to notify railroads of any plan deficiencies and would give railroads an opportunity to respond to any alleged deficiencies in planning requirements, including an opportunity for an informal conference and an opportunity to correct deficiencies. Railroads would be required to review the plans after 5 years and to resubmit them to the FRA after any significant changes, such as establishment of a new route or extension. Title 49 CFR 130.101 also would prohibit a rail carrier from transporting oil unless the requirement in section 130.111 to submit a comprehensive OSRP to the FRA had been met. Railroads would be allowed to temporarily continue operating without plan approval provided the plan was submitted to the FRA and the railroad had certified that it has the capability to respond to a worst-case discharge. We believe that if implemented as proposed in this NPRM, the requirements for explicit FRA comprehensive OSRP approval would be a positive action toward implementing the intent of Safety Recommendation R-14-002. We remain concerned that the FRA staff resources needed to conduct detailed plan reviews, which include auditing facilities and verifying various plan elements, may not be available. It is vital that the FRA develop a program and provide sufficient resources for thorough on-site audits. This will help to avoid the regulated industry essentially policing itself and spill response plans being approved without sufficient verification. Therefore, we believe that while the proposed requirements in the NPRM for comprehensive OSRPs are complete and admirable, it is not enough to approve plans without assigning trained staff to verify that sufficient resources and tactics are in place to ensure timely and effective responses to worst-case oil discharges.

From: NTSB
To: PHMSA
Date: 12/12/2014
Response: We are aware that your advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (HM-251B) seeks comments on potential revisions to 49 CFR Part 130 to expand the applicability of a comprehensive oil spill response plan (OSRP) to HHFTs and to modify the threshold measure for comprehensive OSRPs such that all HHFTs would meet it. We are also aware that you and the FRA are reviewing comments regarding appropriate threshold measures, the clarity of existing requirements, additional information that should be incorporated into comprehensive OSRP requirements, and the associated costs. We are also aware that you are considering making revisions to 49 CFR Part 130 in future rulemaking. Pending completion of these efforts, Safety Recommendation R 14 5 remains classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: PHMSA
To: NTSB
Date: 11/4/2014
Response: -From Timothy P. Butters, Administrator: This letter provides an update on the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) recent and future actions to address the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Safety Recommendations R-12-5, R-12-6, R-14-4, R-14-5, and R-14-6. NTSB issued Safety Recommendations R-12-5 and R-12-6 as a result of its investigation of the June 19, 2009 train derailment in Cherry Valley, Illinois. NTSB issued Safety Recommendations R-14-4, R-14-5, and R-14-6 as a result of its participation in Canada’s Transportation Safety Board investigation of the July 6, 2013 derailment of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic freight train in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. On August 1, 2014, PHMSA, in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), published two notices relevant to the above-referenced NTSB Safety Recommendations. The first is an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) entitled “Hazardous Materials: Oil Spill Response Plans for High-Hazard Flammable Trains” (HM-251B; 79 FR 45079). The second is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) entitled “Hazardous Materials: Enhanced Tank Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains” (HM-251; 79 FR 45015). These notices propose changes to the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 C.F.R. Parts 171-180) that are relevant to the above-referenced NTSB Safety Recommendations, including: •?Improved tank car standards for new and existing high-hazard flammable trains (HHFTs), proposed to be defined as a train consisting of twenty or more carloads of Class 3 flammable liquid (NPRM); •?Expanded rail route planning and selection requirements that would include HHFTs (NPRM); •?Enhanced frequency, methods, and documentation requirements for sampling and testing of mined gases and liquids for the purpose of classification and characterization (NPRM); and •?Extended comprehensive oil spill response plan requirements that would include HHFTs (ANPRM). The comment period on the ANPRM and NPRM closed on September 30, 2014. PHMSA and FRA are currently reviewing comments and anticipate issuing a corresponding NPRM and Final Rule PHMSA’s and FRA’s completed and planned actions with respect to these NTSB recommendations are discussed below. PHMSA’s recent ANPRM (HM-251B) seeks comments on potential revisions to 49 C.F.R. Part 130 that would expand the applicability of a comprehensive oil spill response plan (OSRP) to HHFTs. Specifically, the ANPRM proposes to modify the threshold measure for comprehensive OSRPs to apply to the capacity of an entire train consist rather than the capacity of a single package. While most HHFTs do not meet the current threshold for comprehensive OSRPs, this proposed change would result in all HHFTs meeting the threshold limit. The comment period for this ANPRM closed on September 30, 2014, and PHMSA and FRA are currently reviewing comments regarding appropriate threshold measures, the clarity of existing requirements, additional information that should be incorporated into comprehensive OSRP requirements, and associated costs.

From: NTSB
To: PHMSA
Date: 9/24/2014
Response: CC# 201400918: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) August 1, 2014, advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), Hazardous Materials: Oil Spill Response Plans for High Hazard Flammable Trains. The ANPRM is in response to the NTSB’s January 21, 2014, Safety Recommendation R 14 05, which was issued as a result of our participation in the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s (TSB) investigation of the July 6, 2013, derailment of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic freight train in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. Specifically, NTSB recommended that PHMSA: Revise the spill response planning thresholds contained in Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 130 to require comprehensive response plans to effectively provide for the carrier’s ability to respond to worst case discharges resulting from accidents involving unit trains or blocks of tank cars transporting oil and petroleum products. (R 14 05) Among its requests for comments, PHMSA seeks input on what specific threshold volume would be most appropriate for triggering the requirement for a railroad (carrier) to prepare a comprehensive oil spill response plan (OSRP) and offers four thresholds for consideration: a. 1 million gallons or more of crude oil per train consist; b. A high hazard flammable train of 20 or more carloads of crude oil per train consist; c. 42,000 gallons of crude oil per train consist; or d. Another threshold. We note that during the Lac Mégantic accident, 60 railcars released 1.6 million gallons of crude oil. While an appreciable portion of the oil was consumed by fire, the released oil migrated into sanitary sewers and storm drains, contaminated 77 acres of land, and entered Lac Mégantic and the Chaudière River. Estimated cleanup costs have exceeded $1 billion. The ultimate long term environmental costs of the Lac Mégantic derailment have yet to be determined. Since 2006, there have been 10 railroad derailments in North America involving crude oil tank cars that have released about 2.8 million gallons of crude oil. Because no individual tank car contained at least 42,000 gallons of crude oil, none of the railroad companies involved in the derailments was required to have comprehensive OSRPs for these trains. The most serious of these accidents in the United States was the derailment of 20 tank cars in Casselton, North Dakota, which released 476,000 gallons of crude oil, and the derailment of 26 tank cars in Aliceville, Alabama, which released 456,000 gallons of crude oil. In each of the noted crude oil tank car derailments, each train was transporting a total volume that exceeded the current per package threshold that triggers the requirement to have a comprehensive OSRP, as stated in 49 CFR 130.31 (b). In fact, as noted in the ANPRM, the railroad industry reports it has only five tank cars capable of carrying 42,000 gallons and none of those transport crude oil. In spite of the significant environmental damage that occurred in each of the tank car derailments, the requirement for a railroad company to implement a comprehensive OSRP is effectively nonexistent. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act, as amended by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, requires a comprehensive OSRP if an oil spill “could reasonably be expected to cause substantial harm to the environment.” Significant harm to the environment is likely even when a discharge involves a single crude oil tank car, as evidenced in the April 30, 2014, Lynchburg, Virginia, derailment in which the contents of only one 30,000 gallon crude oil tank car spilled into the swiftly moving waters of the James River and ignited. Therefore, of the threshold options being considered by PHMSA, the NTSB believes a 42,000 gallon per consist planning threshold offers the greatest potential for improved emergency response actions. The NTSB also suggests PHMSA specifically seek input from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Coast Guard (Coast Guard) when considering an appropriate OSRP threshold. PHMSA also seeks input on whether there should be a regulatory requirement. Should PHMSA require that the basic and/or the comprehensive OSRPs be provided to State Emergency Response Commissions (SERC), Tribal Emergency Response Commissions (TERC), Fusion Centers, or other entities designated by each state, and/or made available to the public. The NTSB believes, at a minimum, both basic and comprehensive plans should be shared with State and Tribal Emergency Response Commissions. PHMSA also asks if other federal agencies, such as the EPA and the Coast Guard, should jointly review OSRPs with PHMSA. Should other federal agencies with responsibilities for emergency response under the National Contingency Plan (e.g., US Coast Guard, EPA) also review and comment on the comprehensive ORSP with PHMSA? The NTSB has no opinion on the appropriateness or utility of a joint review of ORSPs by PHMSA, the Coast Guard, and the EPA. Notwithstanding, the NTSB expects both the Coast Guard and the EPA to have highly relevant experience with OSRPs and with actual event histories. As such, the NTSB believes these agencies will be able to offer useful expertise and advice to PHMSA regarding whether modifications should be made to the existing regulatory requirements for OSRPs. The NTSB applauds PHMSA’s quick effort in addressing Safety Recommendation R 14 5 and looks forward to further progress toward addressing the potential environmental impacts of transportation related oil spills.

From: NTSB
To: PHMSA
Date: 7/29/2014
Response: We note that you are working with the FRA to determine the best course of action to address this issue. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation R-14-5 is classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE pending completion of the recommended action. We remind you that, to satisfy this recommendation, you will need to revise the regulations concerning thresholds.

From: PHMSA
To: NTSB
Date: 6/11/2014
Response: -From Cynthia L. Quarterman, Administrator: While many rail carriers are subject to the basic oil spill response required by 49 CFR Part 130, there have historically been no crude oil cars that exceed the volume threshold requiring a comprehensive oil spill response plan. PHMSA is aware of the unique challenges unit trains transporting oil and petroleum products may pose to emergency response and prevention. PHMSA is committed to improving emergency response, and recent efforts highlight this focus. As a part of the Department's "Call to Action," PHMSA held an emergency responder stakeholder engagement meeting on February 10, 2014. The discussion focused on the level of preparedness that emergency responders and public safety officials have to respond to incidents involving the rail transportation of crude oil unit trains through their communities. Additional roundtable meetings were subsequently held with emergency responders to develop response guidelines and other training programs. In addition, on May 7, 2014, DOT issued an emergency order to rail carriers transporting Bakken crude oil.4 Under the order, DOT required each rail carrier transporting greater than 1,000,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil in a single train to provide to State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) of effected states information on the expected movement of Bakken crude oil through that state. The information provided must include all applicable emergency response information and a point of contact regarding the oil transport. If notification is not made to a SERC within 30 days of the date of the order, a carrier is prohibited from operating any train transporting 2:1,000,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil in that state until such notification is provided. Finally, as a result of the "Call to Action," the American Petroleum Institute (API) committed to work with the railroads to enhance emergency response training through the Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response (TRANSCAER) training program. The AAR also committed to inventory crude oil routes and to share this information with emergency responders, develop and provide emergency response training for crude oil transportation for emergencies and work with local communities along crude oil train routes to address location specific concerns. All these efforts are important steps in improving emergency preparedness and response. PHMSA and FRA are also currently considering revisions to 49 CFR Part 130 as part of a future rule making.