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August 12, 2022

PHMSA Posts Recording of Webinar on FAQs Initiative

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) held a webinar on June 27, 2022, on an initiative to convert historical letters of interpretation (LOI) applicable to the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) that have been issued to specific stakeholders into broadly applicable frequently asked questions (FAQ) on its website. A recording of the webinar is available online.

During the webinar, Bill Quade, Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (OHMS), PHMSA, stated that over the years, OHMS has issued thousands of LOIs. While they are available in a searchable database, it is not very user friendly. According to Quade, putting the LOIs into FAQs will ensure that most of the major questions are answered in a relatively concise way.

To create the first set of FAQs, which address the applicability of HMR to persons and functions, OHMS went through all the LOIs on the applicability of the HMR and distilled the information into the 12 FAQs published in the Federal Register on March 22, 2022. 87 Fed. Reg. 16308. PHMSA seeks “big picture” thoughts on the utility of the initiative, whether it is worth the effort of reviewing all LOIs and distilling them into a manageable number of FAQs, and whether the first batch of FAQs cover what stakeholders need from PHMSA.

Quade stated that PHMSA does not intend to get rid of the LOIs, but the LOIs are informal guidance provided in response to specific requests and particular circumstances, while the FAQs are intended for a broader audience. The limited number of FAQs means that it is not difficult to figure out PHMSA’s position.

According to PHMSA, the first batch of 12 FAQs may be issued in final in a couple of months and will be published in the Federal Register at that time. If a request comes in later regarding the applicability of the HMR regulations, PHMSA would first see if the FAQs address the request. If so, then PHMSA would direct the requester there. If not, then PHMSA would prepare a new LOI, and shareholders would be able to get PHMSA’s thoughts on issues they believe are not covered by the FAQs. PHMSA will review and revise the FAQs in light of future rulemakings.

More information on the initiative is available in our March 24, 2022, memorandum. Comments on the FAQs are available online in Docket ID PHMSA-2021-0109.