The PHMSA Incorporates Special Permits into the Hazardous Materials Regulations

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The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced earlier this year that it has amended the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR).

The updated HMR, which became effective on February 22, 2016, will include new provisions taken from nearly 100 unique special permits that have exhibited proven safety results and have been widely used over an extended period of time.

Special permits are used in unique cases but requires that the particular level of safety is equal to the safety level required otherwise in the HMR.

Here is a summary of the HMR amendments from the DOT’s PHMSA:

As required by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is amending the Hazardous Materials Regulations to adopt provisions contained in certain widely-used or longstanding special permits that have an established safety record. The adopted amendments are intended to provide wider access to the regulatory flexibility offered in special permits and eliminate the need for numerous renewal requests. The adopted amendments will also reduce paperwork burdens and facilitate commerce while maintaining an appropriate level of safety. PHMSA conducted an extensive analysis of all active special permits and codified, as appropriate, those special permits deemed suitable in this rulemaking.

New Amendments to the Hazmat Regulations

Historically, PHMSA has analyzed and scrutinized widely-used, long-standing, or popular special permits and would adopt appropriate elements of well-performing or qualifying special permits into the HMR. Take for example the fact that, since 2008, PHMSA has incorporated nearly 100 special permits under various rule-makings into the HMR.

However, on July 6, 2012, President Obama signed into law a new legislative act, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21. This legislation required PHMSA to examine special permits that have been used for 10 years or longer in order to determine if any active special permits were suitable for inclusion into the more general regulatory rulebook.

The new two-year transportation reauthorization bill, as a result, has prompted PHMSA to make significant changes to the Hazardous Materials Regulations. These changes are unique in that they will incorporate elements of special permits that have proven to be effective both in terms of safety and longevity.

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How Will the Hazmat Regulation Amendments Affect My Business?  

The biggest result or consequence of the PHMSA amending the Hazardous Materials Regulations is the provision of widespread access to regulatory flexibility normally only offered in special permits.

The updated regulations will also remove the necessity for consistent and overbearing renewal requests which will definitely reduce paperwork burdens and much, much more.

The PHMSA has set a voluntary compliance date for February 22, 2016. Additionally, the PHMSA has set a delayed compliance date for January 23, 2017. At this time, and unless otherwise specified, compliance with the updated HMR, including amendments adopted in this final rule, are required beginning January 23, 2017.

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