Clarifying the regulation confusion

July 1, 2001 By    

Who regulates the loading, storage and unloading of fuel sent in transit? The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, Occupational Safety & Health Administration or some state or local office? Truth is, it’s not completely clear and government officials are as likely as anyone, to feel confused.

The Research and Special Programs Administration has proposed regulations designed to clarify the hazardous materials regulations concerning loading, unloading and storage of hazmat during transit.

“There is confusion in the regulated community and among federal, state and local agencies with hazardous material safety responsibilities concerning whether and to what extent the hazardous materials regulations applies to particular operations and activities related to the transportation of hazardous materials in commerce,” RSPA explains in its notice of proposed rule making.

“In addition, there is uncertainty concerning the extent to which state and local agencies may require hazardous materials safety, particularly at fixed facilities where the lines between pre-transportation, transportation, and non-transportation operations are not clearly articulated.”

RSPA says many government agencies don’t even know of its guidelines.

The agency plans to clear up definitions such “transportation in commerce,” to apply whenever a carrier possesses hazmat, right through delivery and unloading – not just when it moves the product. “Pre-transportation functions” will refer to activities such as packaging performed by a producer, broker or other possessor before the carrier takes the material.

RSPA is taking comments until Oct. 12. For details, see the June 14 Federal Register. Send comments to Dockets Management System, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room PL 401, 400 7th St. SW, Washington, DC 20590-0001. Refer to Docket Number RSPA-00-4952.


  • More efficient furnaces
    Household furnaces and boilers will have to become more energy efficient eventually. The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy of the Department of Energy has begun the process of increasing energy efficiency standards for those products starting with a July public workshop in Washington, D.C.
    Currently, the annual fuel utilization efficiency descriptor stands at a minimum value of 78 percent for all furnaces except boilers, where propane units use a 75 percent minimum. DOE and the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association estimate between 10 and 15 percent of the appliances use propane.
    DOE plans to complete a market assessment of the industry this year. It realizes it will have to separately consider products by type of fuel and how they’re built (copper tube, cast iron, mobile home, indoor vs. outdoor, etc.). It wants input on these factors and whether it should consider energy demand and climate.
    See the framework document for residential furnaces and boilers: energy conservation standards rule making draft at Send comments by Aug. 17 to Brenda Edwards-Jones, DOE, OEERE, Energy Conservation program for Consumer Products: Energy Conservation Standards for Residential Furnaces & Boilers, Docket Number: EE-RM/STD-01-350, EE-41, 1000 Independence Ave .SW, Washington, DC 20585-0121, fax (202) 586-4617.
  • Motor fuel push
    A push to use propane to power vehicles got legs in the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) introduced the Clean Efficient Automobiles Resulting from Advanced Care Technologies (CLEAR) Act, already proposed in the Senate.
    The legislation includes a 50 cents per gallon tax credit for retail alternative fuel purchases, extension of the tax deduction for creating alternative fuel stations, a 50 percent credit for installation costs of refueling stations, and tax credits for buying alternative-powered vehicles.
  • Energy development
    President George Bush has issued two executive orders to lessen government’s blocking of energy development.
    One creates an interagency task force to help other federal agencies review permits and other actions to speed approval of energy production and conservation. The task force, with representatives from all federal departments, will also help coordinate federal, state and local permitting processes.
    The other requires agencies to “prepare a statement of energy effects when undertaking certain agency actions.” In other words, federal regulators will have to describe to the Office of Management and Budget how their policies will affect energy supply, distribution and use. They’ll have to explain, for instance, if they expect actions to lead to increased prices or reduced supply.
  • Propane price spikes
    A special panel appointed by the president would investigate spikes in propane prices under proposed legislation. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) introduced the Consumer Energy Commission Act of 2001, which would create the board to report in six months about the causes of recent energy price increases. The board could also examine any market failures or abuse of market power in the energy business.
  • Small businesses exempted
    The House passed the Small Business Liability Protection Act, which would exempt small business from liability for discharging less than 110 gallons of hazardous liquid.
  • More LIHEAP changes
    Aid for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program may be coming faster than changes in the weather.
    The House and the Senate Appropriations Committee have approved a supplemental approbations bill for this year including $300 million more for LIHEAP. Bush had requested only $150 million. Congress doubled the figure because spikes in heating prices already drained reserves. The funding could go to help households hit by natural disasters or other emergencies.
    Meanwhile, some legislators are trying to further strengthen the program. Five percent of onshore federal oil and gas revenues would be earmarked for the LIHEAP under legislation introduced by New York’s two senators.
  • Universal cylinder standards
    International standards for propane cylinders won’t be discussed at the United Nations until December.
    The U.N.’s Subcommittee of Exports on the Transport of Dangerous Goods left it off the agenda for the July meeting. The subcommittee is trying to develop a “Globally Harmonized System of Classification & Labeling of Chemicals,” including the first international standards for gas cylinders. The United States requires pressure relief devices; European nations don’t.
    Subcommittee staff, meanwhile, will continue work on model regulations. RSPA represents the United States and welcomes suggestions. Send them to Bob Richard, acting international standards coordinator, Office of Hazardous Materials Safety, Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C. 20590.
    RSPA did issue final rules regarding international transport standards for hazardous materials. The agency urges voluntary compliance immediately and mandates it starting in October of 2002.
    All portable tanks for liquids and liquefied compressed gases must meet an impact test. The new leakage test for portable tanks standard specifies a test pressure not less than 25 percent of maximum allowable working pressure. Tanks carrying liquefied gases need a test pressure of 1.3 times the design pressure. For details, see the June 21 Federal Register.
  • Highway routing data
    In response to errors in its annual highway routing designations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration started updating information on its website.
    The American Trucking Association and the Institute of Makers of Explosives complained that FMCSA published inaccurate data in its annual reports. FMCSA collects data from states every year for the Transportation of Hazardous Materials; Highway Routing.
    FMCSA says it corrects mistakes whenever it finds them and alters designations on the National Hazardous Materials Route Registry at
  • Expanded medical leave
    Homeowners and businesses could get a 25 percent tax credit for installing Energy Star equipment, under the Energy Efficiency Investment Act of 2001 introduced by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE).
    OEERE is following advice it was given in the National Energy Policy and undertaking a review of all its programs to see if it can increase the efficiency of its own energy and better meet its goals. OEERE is studying revamping the way it operates the Community Energy Program, Energy Star, Weatherization, etc.


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