Special Permits
Adoption of Special Permits into the HMR (HM-233F)

There was a Legislative act signed by US president Barack Obama in July of 2013 called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act or MAP-21. As a result, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is making changes to the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). These changes will incorporate some provisions from some of the special permits that have a proven safety record and have been widely used over an extended period of time. The intent in doing this is to provide widespread access to regulatory flexibility normally offered in special permits and removing the need for abundant renewal requests. The adopted amendments will also reduce paperwork burdens and help commerce while sustaining an appropriate level of safety.

Special permits set out variances to the requirements found in the regulations, but still has a level of safety that is equal to the safety level required otherwise in the regulations. The MAP-21 legislation required PHMSA to take a look at the special permits that have been in effect for 10-years. PHMSA conducted an investigation of all active special permits and categorized them, as appropriate, as suitable for inclusion into this rulemaking.

The result is PHMSA amending the regulations, 49 CFR Parts 171–180, by accepting requirements within 96 existing special permits. These amendments are based on the review they did of all active special permits as of January 1, 2013. There were 1,070 Special Permits that were not suggested for inclusion in the HMR due to these special permits having requirements that do not have a wide range for applicability, have already been implemented into the HMR, are being addressed in other rulemakings, or were removed after receiving comments in response to the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) under this HM-233F.

In doing this PHMSA was to determine which ones may be implemented into the HMR. This also required PHMSA to adopt any special permits identified for inclusion in a final rule by October 1, 2015.

The factors to be considered during the examination to determine suitability for implementation into the HMR are as follows:

  1. The safety record of the hazardous materials (hazmat) transported under the SP;
  2. The application of a SP;
  3. The suitability of the provisions in the SP for incorporation into the hazmat regulations; and
  4. Rulemaking activity in related areas. [i]

Before the MAP-21 was put into legislation, PHMSA had already completed a number of rulemakings to adopt some special permits that had a proven safety record into the HMR. Some of these can be found on Table 1[ii] in this final rule.

After the passing of the MAP-21, PHMSA had to change its approach to fulfill the requirements set forth in this legislation. They established terms for reviewing, set up criteria and categories, and put tools in place to help track and facilitate in analyzing current special permits in timely and efficient manner.

In the MAP-21 Legislation the Federal Hazardous Materials Transportation Law was revised to address the “SP and exclusions,” section under paragraph (f).

It states:

(f) Incorporation into regulations.

(1) IN GENERAL-Not later than 1 year after the date on which a SP has been in continuous effect for a 10-year period, the Secretary shall conduct a review and analysis of that SP to determine whether it may be converted into the hazardous materials regulations.

(2) FACTORS-In conducting the review and analysis under paragraph (1), the Secretary may consider-

(A) the safety record for hazardous materials transported under the special permit;

(B) the application of a special permit

(C) the suitability of provisions in the special permit for incorporation into the hazardous materials regulations; and

(D) rulemaking activity in related areas.

(3) RULEMAKING- After completing the review and analysis under paragraph (1) and after providing notice and opportunity for public comment, the Secretary shall either institute a rulemaking to incorporate the special permit into the hazardous materials regulations or publish in the Federal Register the Secretary’s justification for why the special permit is not appropriate for incorporation into the regulations[iii]

PHMSA was also required to implement standard operating procedures (See my previous blog on SOP) to assist with the special permit review and approval processes.

PHMSA has requested comments from holders of special permits that were not implemented. “We stated that we were particularly interested in comments that confirm or refute the suitability, safety, and general applicability of the Special Permit. We asked that if you are a holder of a SP that was not proposed to be adopted but believe it should be, you should submit material to support such an argument.”

They requested that special permit holders submit information and supporting arguments along with technical/scientific data as well as the cost, benefits and frequency of shipments made under said special provision. Information regarding any incidents during transport with said special provision and how often the incidences occurred is also to be provided. PHMSA also asked for commenters to include suggested regulatory text.

The final rule includes much more detailed information like a special permit conversion project chart, where the method is shown on how they staged the analysis and decision process. This includes the specific Special Permits proposed for inclusion, also includes many comments from industry that give a good look into what others are thinking, which brings in different useful perspectives. For more on this final ruling please follow the HM-233 links within this blog.

[i] Pg. 4 of the HM-233F Final Rule

[ii] Pg. 6 of the HM-233F Final Rule

[iii] Pg. 7-8 of the HM-233 Final rule