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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-14-019
Synopsis: This report discusses the 2012 accident in which a Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) train derailed while traveling over a moveable bridge in Paulsboro, New Jersey. Three tank cars containing vinyl chloride came to rest in Mantua Creek, of which one was breached and released about 20,000 gallons of vinyl chloride. On that day, 28 residents sought medical attention for possible exposure, and the train crew and many emergency responders were also exposed. Damage estimates were $451,000 for equipment and about $30 million for emergency response and remediation. This report addresses safety issues: training and qualification of train crews for moveable bridge inspection; Conrail safety management; timeliness of hazardous materials communications to first responders; failure of the incident commanders to follow established hazardous materials response protocols; firefighter training and qualifications; inadequacies of emergency planning, emergency preparedness, and public awareness for hazardous materials transported by train; and rail corridor risk management analysis. Safety recommendations to: Conrail, US Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Association of American Railroads, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Volunteer Fire Council, four New Jersey state agencies, with three reiterated.
Recommendation: TO THE PIPELINE AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS SAFETY ADMINISTRATION: Require railroads transporting hazardous materials to develop, implement, and periodically evaluate a public education program similar to Title49Code of Federal RegulationsParts192.616 and195.440 for the communities along railroad hazardous materials routes.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open Acceptable Alternate Response
Mode: Railroad
Location: Paulsboro, NJ, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: DCA-13-MR-002
Accident Reports:
Report #: RAR-14-01
Accident Date: 11/30/2012
Issue Date: 8/22/2014
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: PHMSA (Open Acceptable Alternate Response)
Keyword(s): Hazmat

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
Date: 4/7/2017
Response: We acknowledge that, over the course of the year, PHMSA has met with subject matter experts from the emergency response community, railroad industry, and other federal agencies to capture lessons learned and best practices for responding to rail accidents involving crude oil. We are pleased that you have provided a guidebook for first responders to use during the initial phase of a transportation accident involving dangerous goods or hazardous materials, and we note that you have provided grants, prioritized for emergency response activities related to the rail transportation of crude oil, ethanol, and other Class 3 flammable liquids, to nonprofit organizations that can train volunteer or remote emergency responders, such as the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Center for Rural Development, and the University of Findlay All Hazards Training Center. We note that you are exploring ways for railroads to provide effective outreach to communities along hazardous materials routes. We urge you to continue to move forward with actions to satisfy Safety Recommendation R-14-19, which is classified OPEN--ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATE RESPONSE.

Date: 3/16/2016
Response: -From Marie Therese Dominguez, Administrator: The PHMSA concurs with this NTSB recommendation to require railroads to implement a public education program. In response, the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (OHMS) is engaging our counterparts in the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and TRANSCAER, to explore ways for railroads to provide effective outreach and information to the communities along hazmat routes. This engagement will explore targeted Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness (HMEP) funding criteria, regional survey-based commodity flow studies, and community outreach resource templates, along with other possibilities, to respond to the NTSB recommendation. This may also include providing resources to communities to help them understand what information is needed to appropriately plan for and respond to rail hazmat incidents and whom to contact for this information. Engaging rail carriers in a public awareness program with requirements similar to those outlined under 49 CFR §§ 192.616 and 195.440 for pipeline operators, in a voluntary manner, is a considerable undertaking. We note that the American Petroleum Institute (API) Recommended Practice RP 1162, Public Awareness Programs for Pipeline Operators (API 2003), can help guide public awareness programs that help communities understand how to prevent and respond to emergencies. However, its focus on pipeline emergencies, and the codified requirements for pipeline operators limit its application to a voluntary program for rail carriers. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and PHMSA continue to engage the emergency response community to improve preparedness and emergency response training associated with the transport of crude oil and other Class 3 flammable liquids by rail. Over the past year, PHMSA has met with subject matters experts from the emergency response community, railroad industry, and other Federal agencies to capture lessons learned and best practices for responding to rail incidents involving crude oil. This engagement led to the publication of the Lessons Learned Roundtable Report and the Commodity Preparedness and Incident Management Reference Sheet for Petroleum Crude Oil. These documents provide emergency responders with an incident management framework, based on pre-incident planning and response best practices, for responding to a rail incident involving flammable liquids, such as crude oil and ethanol. The PHMSA used the Commodity Reference Sheet as a baseline to develop the web accessible Transportation Rail Incident Preparedness and Response (TRIPR) training resource modules. These modules provide emergency responders with critical information on best practices related to rail incidents involving hazard Class 3 flammable liquids. The TRIPR offers a flexible approach to training first responders and emergency services personnel on pre-incident planning and response. The curriculum consists of nine training modules that focus on key response functions and incorporates three animated training scenario videos to facilitate informative tabletop discussions.4 In addition to the crude oil-specific initiatives above, PHMSA awards over $21 million in grants on an annual basis through its HMEP grant program to States, Territories, and Tribes to carry out hazardous materials planning and training activities. These funds ensure state and local emergency responders are properly prepared and trained to respond to hazmat transportation incidents. Eligible activities under this grant include conducting hazmat commodity flow studies, drafting and updating hazmat transportation operations plans, funding emergency response exercises, and offering NFP A-4 725 related training. In September 2015, PHMSA awarded its first Assistance for Local Emergency Response Training (ALERT) grants. This competitive grant opportunity used recovered funds from prior years and awarded non-profit organizations that have the ability to provide direct or web based hazardous materials training for volunteer or remote emergency responders. This grant was prioritized for emergency response activities related to the transportation of crude oil, ethanol and other Class 3 flammable liquids by rail. The International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Center for Rural Development, and the University of Findlay (All Hazards Training Center) were recipients of this grant.

From: NTSB
Date: 2/24/2015
Response: We note that you plan to review your public awareness program requirements for pipeline operators, after which you will determine the best course of action to take to increase public awareness involving hazardous materials transported by rail. In the interim, you will continue to participate in and promote the efforts of the Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response (TRANSCAER®) program and promote voluntary railroad programs, and you will encourage operators to target both the public and the emergency response community through these programs. After you provide us with your planned action to increase public awareness involving hazardous materials transported by rail, we will evaluate your response. Pending our receipt of such information, Safety Recommendation R-14-19 is classified OPEN—UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

Date: 11/24/2014
Response: -From Timothy Butters, Acting Administrator: PHMSA’s Office of Hazardous Materials Safety will conduct a review of the public awareness program requirements for pipeline operators implemented by the Office of Pipeline Safety. The results of this review will be used to make a determination on the best course of action to increase public awareness. In the meantime, PHMSA will continue to participate in and promote the efforts of the TRANSCAER??program as well as promote voluntary railroad programs and encourage that these programs be used to target the public in addition to the emergency response community.

From: NTSB
Date: 9/29/2014
Response: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) August 1, 2014, notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), Hazardous Materials: Enhanced Tank Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains. In this notice, PHMSA, in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), proposes new operational requirements and improved tank car standards for certain trains transporting large volumes of hazard class 3 flammable liquids. It also proposes revising the general requirements for offerors to ensure proper classification and characterization of mined gases and liquids. PHMSA notes that the proposed requirements are designed to reduce the frequency and consequences of accidents involving certain trains transporting large volumes of flammable liquids. The risks posed by such trains are illustrated in the catastrophic consequences of recent derailments at Casselton, North Dakota; Aliceville, Alabama; and Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. Proposed 49 CFR 174.310(a)(2) would apply to any railroad that transports in a single train 1 million gallons or more of petroleum crude oil, hazard class 3 (identification number UN 1267), sourced from the Bakken shale formation in the Williston Basin (centered in North Dakota but extending to South Dakota and Montana in the United States and to Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada). The proposed rule would require railroads to provide written notification to SERCs of the estimated number of such trains expected to travel per week through each county in each state and of the routes over which the crude oil is to be transported. The notification would also describe the crude oil, give applicable emergency response information, and list at least one railroad point of contact. We recently completed our investigation of a November 2012 Conrail freight train derailment in Paulsboro, New Jersey, in which vinyl chloride was released. We concluded that active participation by railroads in local emergency planning would yield safer and more efficient responses to railroad accidents that result in the release of hazardous materials. In addition to notifying SERCs and local communities about the volume of hazardous materials traffic through their areas, we believe that carriers should provide communities with comprehensive emergency planning assistance. Accordingly, we issued the following safety recommendation to the DOT: Require railroads transporting hazardous materials through communities to provide emergency responders and local and state emergency planning committees with current commodity flow data and assist with development of emergency operations and response plans. (R-14-14) Although the NPRM does not specifically address Safety Recommendation R-14-14, it proposes that railroads notify emergency responders whenever a single hazardous commodity, Bakken crude oil, is transported in quantities of more than 1 million gallons through their area. The intent of Safety Recommendation R 14-14, however, is to urge you to require railroads to provide notification and emergency planning assistance for all classes of hazardous material transported through communities, at thresholds such as the those established in the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act for fixed facilities. We urge you to fully and expeditiously address Safety Recommendation R-14-14 in this rulemaking. We disagree with restricting the proposed notification requirement to petroleum crude oil sourced exclusively from the Bakken shale formation. We believe that proposed 49 CFR 174.310(a)(2) should apply at a minimum to all class 3 flammable liquids transported in an HHFT. The properties that make crude oil flammable and hazardous are not limited to oil sourced from the Bakken formation. As one recent study concludes, “Bakken crude oil does not pose risks significantly different from other crude oils or other flammable liquids.” Bakken crude is also reported to be similar to crude oils from other geologic formations. For example, the light ends (ethane, propane, butane, pentane) of Bakken crude have been found to be comparable to those of oils produced elsewhere in North America, such as in the Eagle Ford formation in Texas. We are particularly concerned that ethanol, the other hazard class 3 commodity commonly transported in unit trains, is not included in the proposed notification requirements. While comparative accident data are limited, we believe it likely that if ethanol rather than crude oil had been transported in the train that derailed in Lac-Mégantic, a similar massive pool fire would have resulted. Notification to emergency planners and responders of the presence of tank car shipments of ethanol in their jurisdictions is critical for the same reasons you propose notification requirements for shipments of crude oil. Communities must be prepared to respond to the firefighting challenges posed by ethanol accidents—by having alcohol-resistant firefighting foam readily available, for example—and to the difficulties associated with recovering ethanol released to the environment. Question 1. Whether codifying the requirements of the Order in the HMR is the best approach for the notification requirements, and whether particular public safety improvements could be achieved by requiring the notifications be made by railroads directly to emergency responders, or to emergency responders as well as SERCs or other appropriate state delegated entities. We note in our report on the Paulsboro, New Jersey, accident that unlike fixed facilities, railroads transporting hazardous materials are not required to work with communities to develop emergency plans. Emergency planning responsibilities should include providing (1) emergency planning notification to both local and state emergency planning committees, (2) an emergency coordinator who participates in the local emergency planning process, (3) notice of any operational changes that could affect emergency planning, and (4) any information necessary to develop and implement local emergency plans. The absence of a regulatory requirement for railroads to notify and assist local emergency planning committees leaves communities unprepared to deal with releases of hazardous materials. We believe that the DOT emergency restriction/prohibition order targeting railroad transportation of crude oil from a single geographic region in the United States does not go far enough, and that community notification and planning should be required for all hazardous materials transported by rail. We have found that despite voluntary outreach and community awareness programs, such as the Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response program, many communities and emergency responders are unaware of and unprepared for the risks associated with hazardous materials traffic on railroads. For this reason, we issued the following safety recommendation to PHMSA: Require railroads transporting hazardous materials to develop, implement, and periodically evaluate a public education program similar to 49 CFR Parts 192.616 and 195.440 for the communities along railroad hazardous materials routes. (R 14-19) We believe that the best approach to regulating notification would be to codify the requirements detailed in Safety Recommendations R-14-14 and R-14-19. Question 2. Whether the 1,000,000-gallon threshold is appropriate, or whether another threshold such as the 20-car HHFT threshold utilized in this NPRM’s other proposals is more appropriate. If you believe that a threshold other than 1,000,000 gallons is appropriate, please provide any information on benefits or costs of the change, including for small railroads. We are concerned that 1 million gallons is significantly above a reasonable risk threshold. At that value, notification would apply only to trains with more than about 35 tank car loads. Yet catastrophic derailment failure involving even a single tank car loaded with flammable liquid can cause extensive destruction and loss of life. Therefore, we believe that the notification threshold should be significantly lower. In addition, the threshold should be based on the worst-case consequences of a derailment resulting in fire. At a minimum, the threshold should be set no higher than the value in the proposed definition of an HHFT. Question 6. Whether such information should be deemed SSI, and the reasons indicating why such a determination is appropriate, considering safety, security, and the public’s interest in information. We believe that notification information should raise the awareness of both the general public and stakeholders about hazardous materials routes running through their communities. Having an informed public along rail routes could supplement a carrier’s safety measures and help reduce the consequences of emergencies involving hazardous materials. Classifying routing information about hazardous materials as “security sensitive” would unreasonably restrict the public’s access to information that is important to its safety. An informed public can be prepared to implement protective actions when accidents occur. While the general public may not require detailed information, such as the specific numbers, dates, and times of hazardous materials tank cars traveling on a route, people need to know whether they live or work near a hazardous materials route. They also need to be aware of the hazards associated with releases, what rail carriers do to prevent accidents and mitigate consequences, how to recognize and respond to an emergency, what protective action to take in the event of a hazardous materials release, and how to contact rail carriers regarding specific concerns.