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PHMSA’s Process for Granting Special Permits and Approvals for Transporting Hazardous Materials Raises Safety Concerns: Testimony Before the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, United States House of Representatives
Calvin L. Scovell III (au)
Statement of The Honorable Calvin L. Scovel III, Inspector Gen. (IG),U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DOT) on safety issues within the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Admin.’s (PHMSA) Special Permits and Approvals Program. Special permits and approvals exempt their holders from certain Federal regulations governing the transport of hazardous materials. Currently, there are about 5,500 special permit holders and 118,000 approvals. On July 28, 2009, DOT issued a management advisory to PHMSA that outlined a number of concerns. This testimony focuses on those concerns as well as new ones identified through our ongoing work. Specifically, (1) shortcomings in the processes for reviewing and approving special permits and approvals, (2) concerns with PHMSA’s oversight of permit holders’ compliance with safety requirements, and (3) long-standing safety issues that remain unaddressed by PHMSA. In summary, DOT found that PHMSA grants special permits and approvals without exercising its regulatory authority to review applicants’ safety histories and without coordinating with partner safety agencies. Despite these weaknesses, PHMSA does not target individuals and companies that hold special permits and approvals for safety compliance reviews. These issues — along with safety concerns previously raised by the DOT OIG, the Fed. Aviation Admin. (FAA), and the Nat. Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) — call into question the effectiveness of PHMSA’s process for granting special permits and approvals. Tables.
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