Oversight of the Ongoing Rail, Pipeline, and Hazmat Rulemakings

2167 Rayburn House Office Building

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0 Tuesday, April 14, 2015 @ 10:00 | Contact: Jim Billimoria 202-225-9446

This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

Summary of Subject Matter
Official Hearing Transcript

Witness List:

  • Sarah Feinberg, Acting Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration | Written Testimony
  • Timothy P. Butters, Acting Administrator, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration | Written Testimony
  • Christopher A. Hart, Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board | Written Testimony


    Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA)
    Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials
    Hearing on “Oversight of Ongoing Rail, Pipeline, and Hazmat Rulemakings”



    April 14, 2015
    Opening Statement
    (Remarks as Prepared)


    Our hearing today will focus on the numerous matters related to current railroad, pipeline, and hazardous material rulemakings within this subcommittee’s jurisdiction.  

    Last year, we had two hearings that covered these ongoing rulemakings, one on hazardous materials safety and tank cars and the other on pipeline safety.

    I have heard too many times from industry and safety advocates that the Department of Transportation needs to move more quickly to implement the safety provisions Congress has passed. It’s unusual to hear that industry wants to be regulated, and is pushing for rules to be completed. But the reality is companies can’t invest in new equipment, in new employees, and in new ventures without regulatory certainty.

    In those two hearings, we expressed our frustration with the Administration about how not enough progress has been made getting the numerous rules out.

    Sadly today, we are back asking the same questions. Where are these rules? Why are they still delayed? What is the Administration doing about it?

    We believe in a risk-based, data-driven approach to safety. The Administration states that they do as well, so it should be easy to come up with rules that are data driven, apply cost-benefit principles, and get them out so both the public and industry can act accordingly.

    This brings me to another point that I have with this administration. 

    Last year we had both FRA and PHMSA Administrators come before us to answer for the Administration.  Now, we have two Acting Administrators.

    Mr. Butters and Ms. Feinberg have been good to work with. We appreciate their service and our frustration has nothing to do with either of them personally. But these are very important times and we need certainty in these agencies’ leadership. 

    Yet, the Administration has not formally nominated anyone for these top safety positions.

    I would like to take a moment to thank Ms. Feinberg for coming to California last week at my request. Last week, I brought local leaders together to ask questions of FRA and they had similar questions that we will hear today from the members of this committee.

    Specifically, people in the Central Valley are as concerned about rail safety as the rest of the country. We have been waiting, and waiting, for the new crude-by-rail rule to be released so that the nation can move forward in creating a safer rail system.

    Notably, Congress has acted on multiple occasions to speed the process along and even imposed a statutory limit for releasing a finalized crude-by-rail rule. That deadline was promptly missed by the Administration, which has led us to have this hearing today.

    Again I want to thank you for coming to California last week. I hope that you were able to gain a good perspective on why this rule is important to the Central Valley. I know my constituents appreciated it, our first responders and local elected officials appreciated it.

    To summarize, I hope to hear the status of the crude-by-rail rule, specifically: Is it still at OMB? Has OMB sent the rule back to the Agency for further analysis? When is this rule actually going to be published?

    I look forward to hearing about the comments DOT got about its draft rule, and how DOT is planning to address them in the final rule.

    Additionally, I would like to hear each panelist’s opinions on actually implementing the new rule. We’ve heard from many different sides on this issue on the capacity of American tank car manufacturers and how quickly a new mandate can be implemented. Please provide this committee with what you think that capacity is and how soon the new tank car designs will be able to be completely phased in to our nation’s freight network.

    In closing I look forward to hearing from our witnesses regarding these issues.

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