WEDNESDAY, September 11, 2013 – The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) is set to release a scathing critique of the U.S. DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) wetlines incident data collection efforts. Congress ordered GAO to conduct the study after a successful lobbying campaign mounted by PMAA. The GAO report is important because PHMSA is attempting to use its incident data to support a rule PMAA opposes requiring cargo tank wetlines to be retrofitted with expensive purge equipment.
Specifically, the GAO will report that PHMSA’s incident data cannot be used to reliably identify risks from incidents involving collisions with and spills from cargo tank wetlines because the incidents are not specifically identified in PHMSA’s database and the data contain inaccuracies. PHMSA identifies wetline incidents through a resource-intensive process of reviewing carrier-reported incident reports. However, GAO found that the reports do not always clearly indicate whether an incident is wetline related and that information about the consequences of incidents, including fatalities, is not always accurate. This is the same conclusion was found by a PMAA-sponsored review of incident reports several years ago. The GAO said that PHMSA’s cost benefit analysis for wetline retrofit overstated the number of fatalities the proposed rule would prevent when considering actual past incidents.
The GAO concluded that DOT should improve its wetline incident data by requiring carriers to specifically report wetline incidents and by improving its information on incident consequences. DOT should also address uncertainty in the assumptions and data underlying its regulatory cost-benefit analysis. DOT did not agree or disagree with the recommendations, but provided technical comments.
The GAO study will likely delay or derail the proposed wetline rule for the foreseeable future. PMAA Regulatory Counsel Mark Morgan will analyze the GAO findings and issue a more detailed report shortly.