GAWDA Joins Hazmat Coalition

After several years of informal participation, GAWDA has officially joined a coalition of hazardous materials shipper and carrier organizations called the Interested Parties Group for Hazardous Materials Transportation, or IP Group. The IP Group consists of 45 trade associations representing all modes of transport, including truck, rail, air and water, as well as commodity manufacturing groups in industries whose products are regulated as hazmat—everything from fertilizers and firecrackers to nuclear waste. GAWDA, along with the Compressed Gas Association, is now a full voting member of the IP Group.

The IP Group meets monthly in Washington, D.C., to share information and analysis on legislative and regulatory proposals for the safety and security of hazmat transportation. We discuss matters arising before the DOT, DHS, EPA, OSHA and various state and local regulatory agencies. We also offer collective comments and recommendations to Congress and the regulatory agencies on issues that affect IP Group members generally.

For example, at the request of the House Republican staff, the IP Group is completing a comprehensive analysis of the provisions of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA), the federal statute that directs how DOT is to regulate hazmat transportation. Congress intends to amend the HMTA over the next year, and the IP Group is developing a 50-page list of revisions that we would like to see enacted, along with our justifications and analysis.

In addition, the IP Group regularly meets with regulators on hazmat proposals. Recently, we have discussed with agency personnel items such as guidelines for the safe loading and unloading of bulk hazardous materials, approaches to applying for special permits, standards for state registration and fees for hazmat shippers and carriers, and procedures to streamline background checks for driver hazmat endorsements and the Transportation Worker Identification Credential.

Last month, the IP Group met with Cindy Douglass, acting deputy administrator of PHMSA. Each IP Group member provided her with a synopsis of our association’s top priorities for the agency. I discussed GAWDA comments to PHMSA on preemption of state tort lawsuits involving cylinders that were manufactured to DOT standards. (GAWDA was the only trade association to respond to PHMSA’s request for comments and legal analysis of this issue.)

Regular meetings with agency personnel give IP Group members insight into the enforcement mentality and regulatory priorities of each agency. This can be invaluable when a member company is facing a notice of probable violation or other enforcement action, or when trying to predict how an agency will regulate certain activities in the future.

When necessary, IP Group members also go to court. Several years ago, we collectively sued DOT over its hazmat transportation fees. The agency reduced the fees as soon as our complaint was filed in federal court. A number of IP Group members have also filed a “friend of the court” brief in a case in federal court in D.C. involving local routing restrictions on hazmat shipments by rail and truck.

The underlying policy for IP Group positions is the need to preserve nationwide uniformity of hazardous materials regulatory standards. In addition, we prefer that DOT take the lead, if not the exclusive role, in regulating hazmat shipments, instead of other federal agencies or state or local entities. Although our members do not always agree with DOT’s approach to regulations or enforcement, DOT (and previously the Interstate Commerce Commission) has over 100 years of experience in hazmat regulation, and they have processes in place to encourage effective rules that minimally disrupt commerce. Moreover, IP Group members have a longstanding relationship with DOT officials; that gives us credibility and allows us to handle issues as quickly as possible.

All GAWDA members benefit from this collective lobbying effort. You receive a cost-effective means of influencing federal regulatory policy on hazardous materials transportation and the best intelligence available on government plans that affect your businesses.


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Meet the Author
GAWDA Government Affairs & Human Resources Legal Consultant Richard P. Schweitzer, Esq., is president of Richard P. Schweitzer, PLLC in Washington, D.C. Members can reach him at 202-223-3040 and at rpschweitzer@rpslegal.com.