New Approaches Needed In Managing PHMSA's Special Permits and Approvals Program
On March 4, 2010, we issued our report on the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) Special Permits and Approvals Program. Many hazardous materials are transported under the terms of special permits and approvals, which provide relief from the Hazardous Materials Regulations if certain conditions are met. Our audit objectives were to evaluate the effectiveness of PHMSA’s (1) policies and processes for reviewing and authorizing special permits and approvals, (2) coordination with the affected Operating Administration before issuing any of these special authorizations, and (3) oversight and enforcement of approved parties’ compliance with the terms and conditions of these authorizations.
Our review identified serious deficiencies with this process. Specifically, PHMSA issued special permits and approvals without adequately reviewing applicants’ safety histories and proposed level of safety or coordinating with the affected Operating Administrations. PHMSA also does not conduct regular compliance reviews of individuals and companies who have been granted special permit and approvals. We testified on these findings before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on September 10, 2009. This report summarizes our review results and formally transmits our recommendations discussed at the hearing. PHMSA has developed action plans to address our concerns, and we will be monitoring its actions to ensure that each problem we raised is addressed.