Examining PHMSA’s Recent Amendments to the Hazardous Materials Regulations

On November 25th, 2020, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a final rule amending the hazardous materials regulations by incorporating 24 petitions for rulemaking from the regulated community.  The petitions were submitted between February 2015 and March 2018. The changes made in this final rule were effective on December 28th, 2020.

Limited Quantity Exception for Hydrogen Peroxide

UN2014, Hydrogen Peroxide, an aqueous solution, was not authorized as a limited quantity in the 49 CFR hazardous material regulations. UN2014 is authorized to be shipped as a limited quantity under other modal regulations and the UN Model Regulations.  The lack of harmonization causes inconsistencies in costs and logistics when shipping this material both domestically and internationally.

PHMSA agreed with this petition and added the reference §173.153 to column 8A of the hazardous materials table authorizing UN2014 for transport as a limited quantity.

Markings on Portable Tanks

49 CFR §173.302(b)(2) stated that markings on portable tanks with a capacity of less than 3,785 L (1,000 gallons) have a width of at least 4.0 mm (0.16 inch) and a height of at least 25 mm (1 inch).  Section of the IMDG Code allows a minimum height of 12 mm (0.47 inch).  PHMSA agrees that harmonizing the minimum height of the marking with the IMDG code should facilitate flexibility, cost savings, and efficiencies in transportation.  §173.302(b)(2) is updated to reflect the change in the hazardous material regulations.

Harmonizing Limited Quantities of Corrosive Materials

Through a petition request it was pointed out that many proper shipping names for corrosive materials that are not currently allowed to be shipped as limited quantities be updated with the authorization.  These materials all have limited quantity authorizations in the model regulations.  Allowing these materials to be shipped as limited quantities under the 49 CFR will facilitate harmonization and the cost savings and efficiencies that go with it.  PHMSA agreed with the petitioner and updated 114 entries for corrosive materials with authorizations to be shipped as limited quantities.  

Other Updates Made in this Final Rule to the Hazardous Materials Regulations

There were several other updates to the Hazardous Materials Regulations made in this final rule including:

  • Revising § 173.308(d)(3) to harmonize with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code by removing the requirement for a closed transport container to have the warning mark ”WARNING—MAY CONTAIN EXPLOSIVE MIXTURES WITH AIR—KEEP IGNITION SOURCES AWAY WHEN OPENING” when transporting lighters.
  •  Allowing all waste materials to be managed in accordance with the lab pack exception and associated paragraphs in § 173.12 irrespective of whether they meet the definition of a hazardous waste per Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations implementing the Resource Conservation and  Recovery Act (RCRA).
  •  Mobile Refrigeration Systems; The International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration in its petition (P-1677) has requested a revision of section 173.5b to permit the continuation of mobile refrigeration unit sales. The US produce sector commonly uses these units. Under the current hazardous material regulations (HMR), these mobile refrigeration units that were operational before June 1st, 1991, were required to be taken out of service by October 1st, 2017. But the PHMSA had allowed the continuation of these systems, where tested to a pressure gauge of 250 psig. Following a technical review, PHMSA determined that continuation of these systems when tested to a 250 psig service pressure does not reduce the safety. Therefore, in a proposed hazardous material regulations amendment, it would permit the unit to be used if it is designed for 250 psig service pressure, irrespective of whether it was placed into operation prior to June 1st, 1991, or if the service pressure requirement was achieved due to component upgrade. In the present final rule, PHMSA has revised the section to permit the continuation of certain mobile and portable refrigeration units that meet the service pressure requirements and removed the prohibition on the units operational prior to June 1st, 1991. In addition, PHMSA has withdrawn its enforcement discretion of September 28th, 2017 related to the phasing out of these units because it will not be necessary any longer. 
  • Explosives – Special Provision; The IME requested in its petition (P-1681) for the removal of special provision 103 from the section 172.102 of the HMT for these entries: UN0361, UN0365, UN0255, and UN0267. According to IME, this adjustment would bring the hazardous material regulations in sync with the UN Model Regulations as well as would promote continuity when shipping these goods internationally and domestically. PHMSA made a proposal of these adjustments in the NPRM, and received supportive comments from IME, COSTHA, and Owen Compliance Services. Under the special provision 103, the classification of detonators is restricted as Division 1.4B when they are transported in packages of over 25g of net explosive mass, which could be involved in some degree of propagation explosion. UN Model Regulations, on the other hand, do not have any restriction based on mass quantification for these same goods. Those regulations only require that the detonators should clear the specific UN MTC tests in order to earn the classification of Division 1.4B. PHMSA, in its final rule, has agreed to remove the special provision 103, as it would be in sync with the international regulations without adversely affecting safety.

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