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DOT Inspector General to Address PHMSA’s Progress in Addressing Congressional Mandates

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The Department of Transportation inspector general will assess the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s progress in addressing mandates from Congress and recommendations from other agencies over the last decade.

The review, announced in a memo today and set to begin this month, follows a February request from Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who said at the time that he was concerned about PHMSA’s ability to “address significant safety issues.”

In his request, DeFazio had faulted the agency for slowness in creating new design standards for railroad tank cars used to ship crude oil and said PHMSA had failed to address recurring problems implicated in pipeline accidents (E&E Daily, Feb. 4).

In a statement today, DeFazio said he hoped the review would “shed needed light on this opaque agency and force it to address serious safety concerns.”

The announcement of the review comes four days after DOT released an overhaul — crafted by PHMSA and the Federal Railroad Administration — of tank car standards and other regulations governing shipments of crude oil by train. A spokesman for IG Calvin Scovel said the two events were unconnected.

Besides congressional mandates, the review will examine how PHMSA has fielded recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Government Accountability Office and the inspector general’s office.

Scovel’s office will also look at any barriers PHMSA faces in implementing new mandates and recommendations and how it addresses safety concerns raised by other branches of the Transportation Department.