Liquefied Compressed Gas Controversy Prompts RSPA to Form Study Committee

The Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) has asked for recommendations from the liquefied compressed gas industry on a regulation that requires an additional delivery attendant and the use of remote control devices during unloading.

RSPA is seeking representatives from cargo tank motor vehicle carriers and manufacturers to serve on a federal advisory committee with federal, state, county, and city officials. The group will study and recommend ways to improve delivery safety, according to the notice published in the June 4, 1998, Federal Register.

The requirement of an additional attendant and use of a remote control device brought an outcry from the industry and is currently the subject of ongoing litigation in US District Courts in Texas and Missouri. Seeking relief from the regulation are The National Propane Gas Association; Northwest Butane Gas Company; Huffhunes Gas Incorporated; Ferrellgas LP; Suburban Propane LP; Agway Petroleum Corporation; Cornerstone Propane Partners LP; and National Propane LP.

"Particularly in light of the ongoing litigation, the traditional notice and comment process for regulations development may not result in a solution acceptable to all affected interests," RSPA states in the notice. As a result, the agency believes that face-to-face discussion and open exchange of ideas in a committee atmosphere are appropriate. RSPA suggested that those who participate in the discussion should include representatives from: National Propane Association The Fertilizer Institute National Tank Truck Carriers Inc National Fire Protection Association State safety regulatory and safety enforcement agencies State and local emergency response and fire services agencies Businesses that transport and deliver propane, anhydrous ammonia, and other liquefied compressed gases Manufacturers of DOT MC330 and MC331 specification cargo tank motor vehicles used to transport liquefied compressed gases.

RSPA also will consider others who may be called to serve as an advisory group to the committee, including manufacturers of such cargo tank components as internal self-closing stop valves, emergency discharge control systems, and remote shut-off systems.

"RSPA believes that component manufacturers have technical expertise that would be extremely valuable to the committee's deliberations," the notice states.

A committee organizational meeting was scheduled June 23-24 in Washington DC. Committee membership requests should have been made to RSPA before July 6, 1998. Staff support will be provided by RSPA and meetings will be held in Washington DC, unless the committee chooses another location. The committee will meet for five, two-day sessions. At the end of the sessions, it should prepare a report within six months so that RSPA can issue a final rule by May 1, 1999.

"If unforeseen delays in the anticipated schedule occur, the RSPA administrator may agree to an extension of time if the consensus of the committee is that additional time will result in agreement," the notice states.

Membership requests should be addressed to RSPA at Dockets Management System, US Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh Street, SW, Washington DC, 20590-0001. Requests and/or comments should identify the docket number, RSPA-97-2718-(HM-225A). Two copies of each request and/or comment should be submitted.

For more information, contact Jennifer Karim or Nancy Machado at 202-366-4400. Information also can be obtained at the Department of Transportation Dockets Management System web site, www.dms.dot.gov. It also can be accessed through DOT's home page at www.dot.gov.

The RSPA decision to create the committee follows industry concerns about not only the implementation of the remote control device, but that an attendant must be within 25 feet and have an unobstructed view of the cargo tank to manually shut down the operation in the event of a hose or pipe failure.

Requiring an attendant in addition to the driver could cost the industry $660 million in compliance, according to industry estimates. Installing remote control devices could cost as much as $30 million to $40 million industrywide. Furthermore, industry officials fear that there aren't enough properly tested devices available to meet the demand.

RSPA gave notice earlier that the proposed rulemaking addresses long-term issues involving emergency discharge controls, the possible need for a hose management program, a cargo tank retrofit schedule, and attendance requirements for loading and unloading operations.

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