Contact: Scott Jensen, (202) 249-6511  

WASHINGTON (Dec. 5, 2013) - The American Chemistry Council filed comments today with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) urging the agency to adopt an effective strategy for further improving rail safety that recognizes the importance of preventing rail accidents, as well as improving tank car designs. 

In ACC's comments, Tom Schick, Senior Director of Regulatory & Technical Affairs, stated that shippers continue to play an important role in rail safety by investing in accident mitigation and emergency response strategies. "Through ACC's  Responsible Care® initiative, member companies and our transportation partners are committed to continuous improvement in every aspect of transportation safety. Collectively,  ACC member companies have invested billions of dollars in training, technology and tank car safety. In addition, ACC helps first responders prepare for emergencies through programs like  CHEMTREC® and TRANSCAER® ."

He also added that "a comprehensive federal regulatory framework exists to address all facets of railroad hazmat safety and security. Tank cars that carry chemicals, crude petroleum or other commodities already must adhere to strict federal and railroad standards and are inspected regularly."

ACC's comments noted that the combined efforts of shippers and railroads, coupled with strong regulations in place, have led to significant progress over the last three decades. According to the Association of American Railroads, "more than 99.99 percent of rail hazmat shipments reach their destination without a release caused by a train accident." 

Schick noted that while this docket focuses primarily on tank car design, the review of railroad operational failures and suggested reforms represent a significant opportunity to enhance freight rail safety. "PHMSA and the Federal Railroad Administration should adopt a comprehensive approach to safety. An effective strategy to enhance the safe movement of chemical shipments by rail must encompass more than just tank car designs and must help address the root causes of recent accidents that resulted in tank car breaches. It begins with accident prevention strategies that address railroad operational failures and railroad infrastructure defects-the leading causes of rail accidents. Stronger tank car standards or any other accident mitigation strategy is no substitute for this commitment to accident prevention."

Regarding the specific National Transportation Safety Board recommendations on tank cars, ACC urged PHMSA to conduct a thorough analysis and prioritize tank car enhancements on the largest portion of the ongoing construction of new tank cars. ACC also urged PHMSA to recognize that safety benefits will be achieved more efficiently through improving standards for new cars, as opposed to retrofitting existing cars, and to fully assess the safety and feasibility of proposed upgrades.

Schick concluded, "ACC believes the quickest and best way to for PHMSA to improve safety through this rulemaking is to focus on recommendations that have the support of all transportation stakeholders and to employ proven technologies. Specifically, the agency should expedite a federal standard for new tank cars that carry petroleum and ethanol."

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