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.
It is the task of PHMSA's inspection and enforcement staff to determine compliance with the safety and training standards by:
Inspecting entities that offer hazardous materials for transportation; and that manufacture, re-qualify, rebuild, repair, recondition, or retest packaging (other than cargo tanks and tank cars) used to transport hazardous materials.
Ensuring that pipeline operators are in full compliance with pipeline safety regulations and are meeting PHMSA's expectations for safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of their facilities.
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.
The Pipeline Enforcement Program has a number of different mechanisms to assure operator compliance and safe operation. (In Title 49, Part 190, Subpart B "Enforcement" in the Code of Federal Regulations), including: Corrective Action Orders, Notice of Probable Violations, Warning Letters, Notice of Amendment, and Letters of Concern, which may result in an Enforcement Process that can include Hearings and eventual Criminal Penalties.