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Safety

Lax Oversight Of Hazmat Shipments

by Glenn Hess
September 21, 2009 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 87, ISSUE 38

The federal agency responsible for regulating the transport of toxic chemicals and other hazardous materials has for years waived safety regulations because of what appears to be an "inappropriately cozy" relationship with industry, congressional investigators say. The Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which is part of the Department of Transportation, also routinely failed to determine whether shippers had been involved in accidents or cited for violating regulations before granting or renewing the waivers, according to a report by staff of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. Investigators found that PHMSA treats the companies it regulates like customers and is focused on keeping industry executives happy, rather than keeping the public safe. "PHMSA's culture appears plagued by a belief that it should make things as easy as possible for the industry it is regulating," said Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), the committee's chairman, at a Sept. 10 hearing. Deputy Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari told lawmakers the department has taken steps to correct the problems.

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