Comprehensive Oil Spill Response Plan and HHFT Final Rule Issued

April 22, 2019

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Issues New Rule for Comprehensive Oil Spill Response Plans and Information Sharing for High-Hazard Flammable Trains

On February 14, 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), issued new guidelines requiring Comprehensive Oil Spill Response Plans (COSRPs) and information sharing for High-Hazard Flammable Trains (HHFTs) effective April 1, 2019. This final rule improves oil spill response readiness and reduces the effect of rail incidents involving petroleum, oil, and certain high-hazard flammable trains. The new rule has three main components: COSRPs (49 CFR 130), HHFTs information sharing (49 CFR 174), and Incorporation of Reference of AST D7900 Standard (49 CFR 171 and 173). Voluntary compliance implementing the final rule requirements is encouraged as of February 14, 2019; however, the mandatory compliance deadline is August 27, 2019.

The final rule expands and clarifies current requirements for rail carriers who transport petroleum (42,000 gallons of oil in a single package) to also include route segments that are used for either a single train carrying at least 20 cars or more in a continuous block, or 35 cars in the train carrying Class 3 Flammable liquids (HHFTs).  Rail cars carrying residue or diluted mixtures (less than 10% oil by volume) are exempt from the HHFT determination.

Comprehensive Oil Spill Response Plans Guidance

For rail carriers meeting this applicability standard, the final rule requires the carrier to develop COSRPs designed to respond to a worst-case discharge of oil (300,000 gallons or 15% of the lading).  The COSRP must include exercise procedures for the rail carrier to conduct incident drills.  The COSRP must be reviewed every five years.   

The final rule revises the COSRP requirements to ensure prompt responses through establishing geographic response zones along various rail routes staged with trained personnel, equipment, and resources that can respond within 12 hours of an incident.  Furthermore, the rail carrier is required to identify the qualified individual and alternative responsible for each response zone, as well as the organizations, personnel, and equipment capable of responding, removing, and mitigating the worst-case discharge.  

Rail carriers are required to train employees regarding roles and responsibilities as detailed under the COSRP.  Initial training is required within 90 days of each new hire or change in job function, or revision to the Plan.  Employees must be retrained every five years.  Employee training records must be maintained during the duration of employment.  Qualified individuals acting as the incident commander must be trained in the Incident Command System (ICS).

High-Hazard Flammable Trains Guidance

For rail carriers transporting high-hazard flammable materials, the carrier must notify State or Tribal emergency response commissions and other state-delegated authorities to improve community preparedness through shared information regarding a reasonable estimate of the number of HHFTs expected to travel through each county within a state per week, intended routes, as well as a description of the materials being transported along with a rail carrier point of contact.  Rail carriers must provide revised notification with a material change of greater than 25%.

The final rule further provides for regulatory flexibility and improves response readiness to mitigate effects of rail accidents and incidents involving petroleum oil and HHFTs through the incorporation by reference of American Standardized Testing Method (ASTM) for the Determination of Light Hydrocarbons in Stabilized Crude Oils by Gas Chromatography.  This alternative testing standard may be used to calculate a material’s flashpoint and initial boiling point for Class 3 classification. 

Compliance with Requirements

Need assistance navigating the new rule and its guidelines?  EnviroScience can help you achieve timely compliance. Our strong technical team is familiar with the final rule, NIMS, Contingency Plans, associated guidelines, and rail carrier industry best practices.

We can assist with all, or aspects of, the Comprehensive Oil Spill Response Plan including: 

  • Identification of response zones
  • Identification of environmentally sensitive areas and receptors at risk
  • Worst case discharge assessment and planning
  • Geographic response planning
  • Response contractor assessment
  • Plan exercising following the PREP guidelines
  • Develop procedures for recordkeeping
  • Assist with PHMSA plan review and submission
  • Geographic information system (GIS) support services

Employee Training including:

  • Customized employee training consistent with COSRP
  • Qualified Individual and Alternate training consistent with ICS
  • Training certifications, documentation, and recordkeeping procedures

Notification with State or Tribal SERCs including:

  • Assist with gathering data of HHFTs expected to operate/travel
  • Identification of routes and materials over which HHFTs will operate/travel
  • Describe the emergency response information as required and points of contact
  • Assist with initial and revised notification submissions

Please contact us for more information or to discuss customized services: Kyle Lawrence, klawrence @