American Coatings Association

ACA Comments to PHMSA on Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking under HM-251D


Last month, ACA submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA) on the agency’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) under HM-251D Hazardous Materials: Volatility of Unrefined Petroleum Products and Class 3 Materials.

The agency’s ANPRM is intended to help assess and respond to the petition and to evaluate the potential safety benefits and costs of utilizing vapor pressure thresholds for unrefined petroleum-based products and Class 3 hazardous materials.

Vapor pressure is generally used as a measure of the volatility of a liquid.

PHMSA issued the ANPRM in response to a petition for rulemaking received in December 2015 from the New York State Office of the Attorney General. New York’s attorney general asked the agency to require a Reid vapor pressure limit of less than 9 pounds per square inch for crude oil transported by rail. If PHMSA grants the attorney general’s petition, the agency would need to determine whether 9 pounds per square inch is a preferable limit.

In its comments, ACA urged PHMSA to not consider any Class 3 hazardous materials other than unrefined petroleum products for its proposed rulemaking. While paint and coatings are categorized as Class 3 Materials, ACA stressed that both the raw materials and finished paint and coatings products have fixed compositions that are not going to have the same variability as crude oil; their properties and characteristics are not changing over the course of transportation. ACA recommended that PHMSA heed its own acknowledgement that unrefined petroleum products are a special case compared to other Class 3 hazardous materials.

In the ANPRM’s background information, PHMSA acknowledged that unlike manufactured goods, organic materials from oil and gas production present a unique challenge in regards to classification: unrefined petroleum-based products, including crude oil, have properties that are variable based on time, method, and location of extraction. Manufactured goods, on the other hand, undergo strict quality assurance processes designed to ensure properties and characteristics are within defined parameters.

ACA also responded to the ANPRM’s solicitation for general comments on economic impacts of utilizing vapor pressure thresholds within the hazardous materials classification process for unrefined petroleum products and Class 3 hazardous materials. ACA suggested that PHMSA investigate the cost of a vapor pressure test along with the number of unique products that would need to be tested to quickly assess a potential cost. ACA believes this coarse analysis will reveal a considerable cost for such a rulemaking.

Notably, the attorneys general for New York, California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, and Washington state submitted joint comments to PHMSA supporting a lower vapor pressure standard for crude transported by rail tank cars.

Contact ACA’s Xavier Ferrier for more information.