DOT seeks to dismantle RSPA

March 1, 2004 By    

The U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed dismantling the Research & Special Programs Administration and moving the Office of Pipeline Safety into the Federal Railroad Administration – an agency familiar with hazmat transportation – as a result of heightened security fears.

The rest of RSPA would coordinate research and be called the Research & Technology Administration. DOT hasn’t developed a timeframe for the moves. The plan also doesn’t entail any major changes in hazmat regulation and is designed to be “budget neutral.”

RSPA Risk Assessment Engineer Doug Reeves told the Transportation Research Board that DOT wants to create a strategic hazmat transportation research plan patterned after its plans for highway and airport research. DOT wants to work with TRB to develop topics of interest and would only sponsor research proposals on those topics. A committee examining the plan includes representatives of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, RSPA, the Coast Guard, Bureau of Transportation Statistics and FRA.

A workshop could be held in June or July to determine research needs and deliver a plan for DOT to consider in October.

Meanwhile, Congress approved an appropriations bill covering DOT for 2004, four months into the fiscal year. The agency will give states $25 million in New Entrant State Grants to license and work with companies starting hazmat hauling.

The funding bill also includes:

  • $21 million for the Commercial Drivers License Improvement Program and $1 million for the Hazmat Permitting Program.
  • $2 million to create a satellite-based mobile communications system to track hazmat moving through remote areas and $1 million to design Operation Respond, a system to detect and respond to hazmat emergencies.
  • $66.3 million for pipeline safety and $1 million for one-call grants.
  • $1.6 billion in regular funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and $1 billion for its emergency fund.

Briefly Speaking

EIA predictions
The fastest rate of growth for propane consumption will come in the industrial sector, EIA predicts. Its long-term energy forecast projects industrial use will rise an average of 1.2 percent a year between now and 2025. Residential use should rise an average of 0.8 percent annually, while commercial use will go up only 0.3 percent, the agency predicts.

DOT scolded

The U.S. Department of Transportation needs to better coordinate hazmat inspection and enforcement efforts among agencies, its Office of Inspector General recommends. Some shippers cause problems in more than one mode (air, water, rail, highway) and RSPA, FMCSA, FRA and the Federal Aviation Administration don’t work together well, the report notes.

Security plan guide available

FMCSA has released a new guide to developing an effective security plan for the highway transportation of hazardous materials. You can download it from

Hazmat rules upgraded
RSPA has cleaned up its hazmat rules to make them easier to cross-reference and conform to national and international standards. It also issued final rules regarding hazardous liquid pipeline operator annual reports. The new rule simplifies the form and delays mandatory reporting until June 15, 2005, to cover the year 2004. RSPA is considering ways to collect information for individual states to help state regulators.

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