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Actions Taken and Needed To Improve Management and Oversight of PHMSA’s Hazardous Materials Special Permits and Approvals Program

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On April 22, 2010, the Inspector General testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure regarding the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) management and oversight of the Special Permits and Approvals Program. PHMSA regulates up to 1 million daily movements of hazardous materials, many of which are transported under special permits and approvals that allow relief from the Hazardous Materials Regulations under certain conditions. The Office of Inspector General has evaluated this program over the past 2 years and identified shortcomings in how PHMSA authorizes and oversees special permits and approvals. While PHMSA developed commendable action plans in response, more work remains to ensure they are executed as intended. Specifically, PHMSA personnel are not consistently following the new procedures for granting special permits and approvals or adequately overseeing explosive classification approvals. As PHMSA continues to address these areas, it must refocus its approach to proactively identify safety risks, work with partner safety agencies to resolve safety and coordination matters, and set targeted oversight priorities.