DG Digest: PHMSA’s Busy Week, U.S. Coast Guard’s New Rule on Jettisoning Cargo, and More LiOn Battery Woes

The Union Pacific Railroad, one of the two (with BNSF Railway) major western rail carriers in the United States, had its Positive Train Control implementation plan delivery to the Federal Railroad Administration announced last week. Here a UP trains heads north at Main Street in Auburn, Washington in late August. Image © 8/2016 by Nikki Burgess; all rights reserved.

The Union Pacific Railroad, one of the two (with BNSF Railway) major western rail carriers in the United States, had its Positive Train Control implementation plan delivery to the Federal Railroad Administration announced last week. Here a UP trains heads north at Main Street in Auburn, Washington in late August. Image © 8/2016 by Nikki Burgess; all rights reserved.

I hope everyone enjoyed their Labor Day holiday safely—and that the summer it capped was a good one for you.  The surprisingly busy regulatory week leading up to the break featured significant new announcements, so let’s get right to it!

US Coast Guard

  • The Coast Guard’s Chemical Transportation Advisory Committee will hold a series of public meetings on Tuesday, September 27th through the 29th in Washington, DC.  Meetings run from 9 AM to 5 PM all three days.  This committee helps set policy regarding the maritime transport of chemicals in US waters.  Details here
  • The agency also published an interim rule in the Federal Register on May 9, 2016, that prescribes when and how the loss or jettisoning of cargo at sea must be reported (i.e. Cargo Securing Manuals). That rule contained a typographical error that erroneously revised a force majeure regulation instead of a notice of hazardous conditions regulation. This new release corrects that error.  See it here


  • The nation’s primary environmental agency released news last week reporting its progress on implementation of the new Frank R. Lautenburg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (basically, revisions to the TSCA).  EPA says it has:
    • A plan released on June 29, 2016, that outlines activities for the first year of implementing the new law;
    • The first determinations completed on seven premanufacture notices under TSCA in July, 2016. The new law requires the agency to make affirmative determinations on new chemical substances before they can enter the marketplace. Additional determinations will be released as they are completed;
    • A series of public meetings held from August 9-12, 2016, to obtain comments and feedback from stakeholders on the processes that will be used to establish fees and prioritize and evaluate chemicals under the new law;
    • A list of five mercury compounds released on August 26, 2016, that will be prohibited from export as of January 1, 2020. This action will prevent the ability to convert these compounds to elemental mercury after export from the United States.
  • Additionally, the agency is establishing the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) to provide independent advice and expert consultation on scientific and technical aspects on risk evaluations, methodologies, and pollution prevention measures or approaches. The call for nominations to serve on this committee was issued on August 26, 2016. To learn more, see the detailed home page for the newly revised law here
  • In further EPA news, the agency announced a grant program for small communities to assist them with planning and installing air quality monitoring devices, especially in areas surrounding industrial sites.  See the program outline here


Lithium Batteries

The (literally) sometimes volatile lithium battery transport world took another remarkable turn last week when major mobile phone/device maker Samsung announced a massive recall of its latest “Galaxy Note 7” smartphone products account concerns over potential fires related to the devices’ batteries when charging.  The recall may affect millions of the devices.  See more here

Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau

The industrial alcohol (methanol) industry will want to take a look at this new rule from the above agency which revises the way many industrial alcohols will be treated for tax purposes.  Such effects may travel quite a way down the logistics chain, since so many hazardous materials use denatured alcohols as a part of their ingredients list.  See the tax news here


The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is considering a request that they amend the agency’s 1987 Statement of Interpretation and Enforcement Policy regarding labeling of household products containing methylene chloride ( a common ingredient in many paint and varnish stripping agents). The request is to expand the Policy Statement to address acute hazards from inhalation of methylene chloride vapors in addition to the chronic hazards addressed by the current Policy Statement. The Commission invites written comments concerning the petition, no later than Halloween Day, October 31stHere’s the notice


  • OSHA published a final rule on occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica on March 25, 2016 which became effective on June 23, 2016. This notice corrects typographical errors in the final rule, with an effective date of September 1, 2016.  Here’s the corrections
  • The agency also announced the availability of all of its content on its homepage in Spanish as well as English, reflecting the continued diversity of the American workforce.  See OSHA’s homepage here for the details

FMCSA/Road News

  • This notice makes corrections to a final rule published in the Federal Register on July 22, 2016, regarding amendments to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation and makes several minor clerical corrections regarding the rear license plate lamp requirements and the periodic inspection requirements for antilock brake systems (ABS).  This rule is effective September 2, 2016.
  • Embattled air bag maker Takata suffered yet another setback last week when a truck carrying explosive propellants for the devices between its factory in Washington State and the final assembly point in Mexico crashed and exploded in Texas, killing one unfortunate local woman and injuring several other people.  Takata already faces a massive problem addressing allegedly faulty airbags; this new issue merely adds more trouble with PHMSA for the maker.  Here’s the New York Times story

FRA/Rail News

  • The Union Pacific Railroad, one of the two major freight rail carriers in the western half of the United States (the other being BNSF Railway) saw the announced delivery of its long-awaited Positive Train Control (PTC) Implementation Plan to the FRA for approval last week.  Most major US carriers have now made their required submissions.  See the FRA’s notice here
  • In other rail news, the State of California is set for a showdown over taxing authority with the Federal Government.  The state recently approved a new $45 USD/per rail car tax on shippers using the railroads to transport hazardous materials.  Railroads in California promptly sued in federal court, asserting federal primacy makes that ax illegal under the terms of the Interstate Commerce Clause of the US Constitution.  For details see my comprehensive blog post covering the story from late last week: here’s the link

Maritime News

In news not directly related to shipping Dangerous Goods but which will be of interest to many shippers nevertheless, South Korean container line Hanjin Shipping sought bankruptcy protection in US Federal Court last week, with an attendant stoppage on the berthing and servicing of its vessels at ports worldwide.  Hanjin is the third largest shipping line in the world dealing with containerized traffic.  How the proceedings will play out is open to question at press time; one rumored solution is a buyout by Hyundai Shipping Lines, South Korea’s other major such carrier.  Meanwhile the stoppage casts a pall over import plans just as the US ramp up in inventory for the holiday retail season begins.  See more here

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