General

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PHMSA Enforcement

Overview

PHMSA's primary mission under the Federal laws governing the transportation of hazardous materials is to protect people and the environment from the risks inherent in the transportation of hazardous materials by pipelines and other modes. The Offices of Pipeline Safety and Hazardous Materials Safety perform the regulatory oversight of the transportation of hazardous materials.

PHMSA's inspection and enforcement staff promulgates the safety and training standards by working to ensure that the PHMSA regulated community complies with pipeline and hazardous materials safety regulations and are meeting PHMSA's expectations for safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of their facilities. PHMSA inspects regulated entities that offer hazardous materials for transportation; including those that manufacture, re-qualify, rebuild, repair, recondition, or retest packaging (other than cargo tanks and tank cars) used to transport hazardous materials.

Pipeline Enforcement

PHMSA’s Office of Pipeline Safety monitors operator compliance through field inspections of pipeline facilities and construction projects; inspections of operator management systems, procedures, and processes; and incident investigations. Identified non-compliances and unsafe conditions are addressed through a variety of means including an assortment of enforcement tools such as Corrective Action Orders, Safety Orders, Notices of Probable Violation, Warning Letters, and Notices of Amendment (see Title 49, Part 190, Subpart B "Enforcement" in the Code of Federal Regulations).

PHMSA ensures accurate and complete pipeline enforcement records with rigorous process controls and quality control. PHMSA’s rigorous pipeline case management accurately tracks every enforcement case each step of the way. This web site makes available accurate, complete, and extensive enforcement records and information to the regulated community, the public, partner state agencies, and other stakeholders. By accessing this information, it is hoped that the regulated community will better understand PHMSA’s regulatory requirements and expectations, continuously learn from enforcement actions, and better take corrective and preventative actions system-wide to address latent issues and prevent future issues.

PHMSA encourages operators to avoid non-compliances, work quickly to modify their programs to achieve compliance upon identification of a program deficiency, and maintain an effective safety culture to continuously monitor and improve their internal programs and processes while seeking to properly manage risk and eliminate all incidents.

Hazardous Materials Enforcement

PHMSA Hazardous Materials Enforcement assures compliance through:

  • Independent and joint modal field inspections and partnerships of:
    • Shipper and carrier transportation facilities
    • Packaging manufacturing, requalification, repair and reconditioning facilities
    • Cargo vessel ports, rail freight yards, motor carrier and air cargo terminals
    • Chemical and explosive manufacturing plants
  • Programmatic inspections of hazardous material transportation systems, procedures, and processes
  • Civil and criminal enforcement investigations
  • Accident and incident investigation and failure analysis
  • Outreach and education elements with other agencies, industry and stakeholders
  • Emergency response

PHMSA has available a full range of enforcement tools to ensure that the hazardous material transportation industry takes appropriate and timely corrective actions for violations, respond appropriately to incidents, and that they take preventive measures to preclude future failures or non-compliant operation.

Having a number of enforcement tools to use for noncompliance, PHMSA's Hazardous Materials Enforcement program may issue Letters of Warning and Tickets for less serious violations. However, the program refers matters which are believed to compromise safety to PHMSA's Office of the Chief Counsel for appropriate sanction which includes Notices of Probable Violation and Corrective Action and Compliance Orders. The Federal hazardous materials transportation law authorizes PHMSA's Chief Counsel to assess a civil penalty of not less than $250 nor more than $50,000, or to refer matters for criminal prosecution.

Updated: Wednesday, September 6, 2017