Little support for wetlines ban
May 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Charles E Wilson
NOW THAT the comment period has closed on HM-213B, it seems clear that there is very little real support outside the Department of Transportation for the regulation that would ban wetlines on tank trailers. Not even Public Citizen's Joan Claybrook — a rabid foe of the trucking industry — took the time to comment in favor of the proposed rule.
A majority of the comments were in opposition to HM-213B. One of the most detailed submissions came from National Tank Truck Carriers Inc (NTTC), perhaps the most vocal opponent of the proposed rule. NTTC questioned the accuracy of virtually all of the statistics and data used by the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) and its predecessor, the Research and Special Programs Administration.
NTTC said that PHMSA's estimates relating to wetlines incidents were grossly exaggerated. PHMSA seriously underestimated the number of tank trailers that would be affected by a retrofit requirement for wetlines purging systems. PHMSA also underestimated the retrofit cost by at least $1,000 per trailer.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) submitted the findings of a risk, failure, and effects analysis that determined that wetlines incidents are rare. Further, the probability of a fatality being directly attributed to wetlines is extremely low. API hired Southwest Research Institute (SRI) to conduct the survey.
API also chided PHMSA on the way it handled the SRI study. “Though referenced in the 2003 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, PHMSA did not even mention this study in the proposal, nor was it even posted to the Docket, until after API requested it be posted, after the release of the proposal.”
The Petroleum Marketers Association of America expressed its opposition to HM-213B, stating that from 1996 through 2000, there were six fatalities involving wetlines. In contrast, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System recorded 2,090 fatalities involving cargo tank vehicles during the same time period. That means there was less than 0.3% chance of a fatality involving wetlines.
The California Air Resources Board raised concerns about the wetlines purging systems that PHMSA would mandate under HM-213B. CARB “is concerned that use of an air purging system on gasoline cargo tanks will increase air pollution. The large number of gasoline deliveries in our urban areas suggests this purging process could result in the release of a potentially significant amount of additional ozone forming emissions in the atmosphere…we suggest that you not adopt a standard that allows an air-pressurized purge of wetlines.”
Among those submitting comments that were supportive of HM-213B, or at least neutral, were the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUCO) and the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety. PUCO said it supports the rulemaking but offered no data of its own to support a wetlines ban. The Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety seemed primarily concerned with making it as easy as possible for enforcement officials to write citations for vehicles not in compliance with the rule.
One of the more interesting pro-rule comments came from a woman in Washington State. She suggested a rather unusual alternative to compressed-air purging of wetlines. Miniature pigs, similar to those used in large pipelines, could be moved back and forth within the piping to push product out of the lines. In a leap of logic, she also linked the wetlines issue to the terrorist threat that followed in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001. Not even PHMSA tried that approach.
What PHMSA has done, though, is build a rulemaking with very flimsy data and justification. There simply isn't enough of a risk to justify the millions of dollars in new hardware. In addition, PHMSA's dogged push for a retrofit requirement could expose hundreds, if not thousands, of cargo tank repair shop workers to an elevated risk of injury or death. Even one shop-worker death would invalidate the entire rule.
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