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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-14-002
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 FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: 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.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Alternate Action
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: 9/16/2019
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FRA (Closed - Acceptable Alternate Action)
Keyword(s): Hazmat

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 9/16/2019
Response: We note that, on February 28, 2019, PHMSA published a final rule, Hazardous Materials: Oil Spill Response Plans and Information Sharing for High-Hazard Flammable Trains, at 84 Federal Register 6910. This final rule expands the applicability of comprehensive oil spill response plans (OSRPs) to high-hazard flammable trains, including the entire train consist, and specifies that PHMSA, not the FRA, is responsible for comprehensive OSRP approval. We further note that this authority was transferred to PHMSA in response to our comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), where we questioned your resources to approve plans given that PHMSA’s Oil Spill Preparedness and Emergency Support Division is an established program with experience approving OSRPs for pipelines. This rulemaking satisfies the intent of this recommendation in an acceptable alternate manner. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation R-14-2 is classified CLOSED--ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATE ACTION.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 4/8/2019
Response: -From Ronald L. Batory, Administrator: In 2016, FRA stated that on August 1, 2014, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in consultation with FRA, published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) titled "Hazardous Materials: Oil Spill Response Plans for High-Hazard Flammable Trains (HM-2518)." In this ANPRM, PHMSA solicited comments on expanding the applicability of comprehensive oil spill response plans to high-hazard flammable trains. FRA and PHMSA collaboratively drafted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), and explained that once the rulemaking was finalized, FRA would initiate a program to review and approve railroads' comprehensive oil spill response plans under 33 U.S.C. Section 1321(g)(5)(E). The NTSB stated in an NPRM comment that requiring FRA approval of comprehensive Oil Spill Response Plans (OSRP) would be a positive action towards implementing R-14-02. However, the NTSB also expressed concern that FRA did not have sufficient staff resources to conduct these detailed plan reviews. On February 28, 2019, PHMSA published a final rule, "Hazardous Materials: Oil Spill Response Plans and Information Sharing for High-Hazard Flammable Trains" (See 84 FR 6910). The final rule specifies that PHMSA, not FRA, is responsible for comprehensive OSRP approval. The preamble language explains that this authority is transferred to PHMSA in response to comments on the NPRM questioning FRA's resources to approve plans, as PHMSA's Oil Spill Preparedness and Emergency Support Division is an established program with experience approving OSRPs for pipelines. PHMSA will conduct detailed reviews of the railroad OSRPs in consultation with FRA, ensuring adequate resources are in place to respond to, mitigate, or prevent a worse-case discharge of petroleum products that occurs during rail transportation. As a result, the NTSB's concerns have been addressed. Because the final rule has been published, and PHMSA has the sole authority relating to OSRPs, FRA can take no further action. FRA respectfully requests the NTSB classify Safety Recommendation R-14-02 as "Closed." I appreciate your ongoing interest in railroad safety issues. If FRA can provide further information or assistance, please contact Mr. Karl Alexy, Deputy Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety and Chief Safety Officer.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
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: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 5/16/2016
Response: -From Sarah E. Feinberg, Administrator: This letter is to update you on the status of the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) responses to certain National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Safety Recommendations (R-01-02 R-04-07 R-05-17 R-07-02 R-08-12 R-14-02 R-14-16 and R-14-17) issued to the FRA. In the enclosure, FRA responds to these Safety Recommendations and explains the actions it has taken in response to them. FRA's actions, once implemented, will satisfy the intent of these open NTSB recommendations and FRA will keep the NTSB informed of their completion. On August 1, 2014, PHMSA, in consultation with FRA, published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), titled Hazardous Materials: Oil Spill Response Plans for High-Hazard Flammable Trains (HM-251B). In this ANPRM, PHMSA solicited comments on expanding the applicability of comprehensive oil spill response plans to high-hazard flammable trains. The comment period closed on September 30, 2014, and FRA and PHMSA evaluated the comments. FRA and PHMSA have collaboratively drafted an NPRM, which is currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget. Once this rulemaking is finalized, FRA will initiate a program to review and approve railroads' comprehensive oil spill response plans, under 33 U.S.C. Section 1321G)(5)(E).

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 3/17/2015
Response: We note that you are currently evaluating the ANPRM discussed above and comments you have received on it before you develop a notice of proposed rulemaking to address the issue. We understand that, should 49 CFR Part 130 be amended, you will initiate a program to audit railroads’ comprehensive oil spill response plans. Pending development of the recommended audit program, Safety Recommendation R-14-2 is classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 12/10/2014
Response: -From Joseph C. Szabo, Administrator: The requirements for oil spill response plans are found in Part 130 of the HMR. Specifically, depending on the volume transported, Part 130 requires development and compliance with basic and comprehensive oil spill plans. All railroads that transport oil in packaging with a capacity greater than 3,500 gallons must have a basic oil spill plan. The basic plan sets forth the manner of response to discharges that may occur during transportation, takes into account the maximum potential discharge of the contents from the packaging, identifies private personnel and equipment available to respond to a discharge, identifies the appropriate persons and agencies to be contacted in regard to such a discharge and its handling, and is retained on file at that person's principal place of business and at the dispatcher's office. FRA is performing an audit of the basic spill response plan in conjunction with audits and inspections of railroad route analyses and security plans. A comprehensive plan is only required when oil is transported in packaging with a capacity greater than 42,000 gallons. In a recent review of data from the Universal Machine Language Equipment Registry, FRA identified six tank cars with a capacity greater than 42,000 gallons. These tank cars are currently not used to transport oil. In its present form, Part 130's requirements for a comprehensive oil response plan do not apply to the railroads transporting petroleum crude oil in tank cars. To address this is issue and open safety recommendations, On August 1, 2014, PHMSA, in consultation with FRA, published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), developed by FRA titled Hazardous Materials: Oil Spill Response Plans for High-Hazard Flammable Trains (HM-251B). 79 FR 45079. In this ANPRM, PHMSA solicited comments regarding expanding the applicability of comprehensive oil spill response plans to trains carrying large volumes of petroleum crude oil. The comment period closed on September 30, 2014, and comments are currently being evaluated for purposes of formulating a NPRM in that proceeding.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 7/29/2014
Response: We note that you are working with PHMSA to determine the best course of action to address this issue, including the possibility of modifying 49 CFR Part 130, regarding the additional requirements for railroad carriers to develop and comply with an oil spill response plan. We further note that, if you amend the regulation, you will initiate a program to audit railroads’ comprehensive oil spill response plans. Pending completion of your efforts, Safety Recommendation R-14-2 is classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 5/23/2014
Response: -From Joseph C. Szabo, Administrator: The requirements for oil spill response plans are found in 49 CPR Part 130, Oil Spill Prevention and Response Plans. Specifically, depending on the volume transported, 49 CPR Section 130.31, Response plans, requires development and compliance with basic and comprehensive plans. All railroads that transport oil in packagings with a capacity greater than 3,500 gallons must have a basic plan. The basic plan sets forth the manner of response to discharges that may occur during transportation; takes into account the maximum potential discharge of the contents from the packaging; identifies private personnel and equipment available to respond to a discharge; identifies the appropriate persons and agencies to be contacted in regard to such a discharge and its handling; and is retained on file at that person's principal place of business and at the dispatcher's office. FRA is performing an audit of the basic spill response plan in conjunction with audits and inspections of railroad route analyses and security plans. FRA's audit and inspection activities for route analyses and security plans are described in more detail in the response to Recommendation R-14-03 below. A comprehensive plan is only required when oil is transported in packagings with a capacity greater than 42,000 gallons. In a recent review of data from the Universal Machine Language Equipment Registry, FRA identified six tank cars with a capacity greater than 42,000 gallons. These tank cars are currently not used to transport oil. In its present form, the requirements for a comprehensive oil response plan do not apply to the railroads. FRA and PHMSA are deliberating on the best path forward to modify regulations in 49 CPR Part 130 'regarding the additional requirements for railroad carriers to develop and comply with an oil spill response plan. If 49 CFR Part 130 is amended, FRA will initiate a program to audit railroads' comprehensive oil spill response plans.