PHMSA is extending the deadline for comments due today (March 21, 2017) on the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) issued on January 18, 2017.   The new deadline for comments is May 19, 2017.  The ANPRM was issued in response to a petition for rulemaking filed by state of New York, enquiring about risks posed by transport of petroleum by means other than pipeline, specifically by rail, and whether to establish vapor pressure standards for the transportation of crude oil.  The ANPRM requested comments on whether a national standard should be developed for vapor pressure of crude oil, including the potential safety benefits and costs of establishing a standard.  The intent of the ANPRM is to evaluate measures to reduce risk of fire and explosion in non-pipeline transport of crude oil such as a national vapor pressure standard and, if so, adopt appropriate threshold recommendations for the standard.

The New York petition proposed a threshold standard of less than 9 psi, without analysis of specific costs and benefits or empirical information to support that limit.  In contrast, and as noted in the ANPRM, in late 2014 the North Dakota Industrial Commission implemented a standard vapor pressure threshold of not greater than 13.7 psi or 1 psi less than the vapor pressure of stabilized crude oil.  In 2014, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy commissioned a review of available crude oil chemical and physical property data to identify properties that could contribute to increased potential for accidental combustion.  In conducting this review, the study found that a wide ranging variability of crude sampling types and methods limits the adequacy of available crude oil property data as the basis for establishing effective and affordable safe transport guidelines.  This study is part of a four phase plan, which is currently in its second phase, to determine the methods of sampling and analysis that are suitable for characterizing properties of different crude oils.

Due to the technical nature of the ANPRM, the nearly 40 questions posed by the Agency, and the broad implications of the proposal to the supply chain, API and others requested an extension of the comment period.  As a result, PHMSA agreed to the comment period an additional 60 days to allow for further information collection and public input.