US chemical firms protest new hazmat rail tariff

25 May 2007 00:41  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US chemical and fertilizer producers on Thursday challenged a new freight tariff being sought by a major railroad for hazardous materials cargoes, saying the rate hike is unreasonable and unwarranted.


The American Chemistry Council, the Chlorine Institute and The Fertilizer Institute said they are protesting a special freight tariff that Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) plans to impose beginning the first of next year.


BNSF has notified customers that shipments of toxic inhalation hazardous (TIH) materials such as chlorine and anhydrous ammonia will be assessed an unspecified additional fee unless the shipper uses tank cars that meet new construction and safety standards drawn up by the American Association of Railroads.


However, chemical manufacturers and others have contested the rail association’s tank car standards as a unilateral decision, noting that the US Department of Transportation is still working on a new tank car design standard.  The chemical and fertilizer firms argue that they are under no legal obligation to meet the rail association’s design standard.


Noting that the rail association’s tank car design is disputed by various TIH cargo shippers, the council and the two institutes have formally asked BNSF to reverse its tariff plan.


The shippers told BNSF chairman Matt Rose that they consider the tariff demand unreasonable.


“Given the ongoing federal rulemaking on a new tank car standard, BNSF’s move to a new car standard is wholly unwarranted,” the shippers said in a letter to Rose.  They said BNSF cannot hold TIH shippers to a tank car standard that has not been accepted by all stakeholders.


In addition, the chemistry council noted that there are no tank cars meeting the rail association’s standard available for purchase, so TIH shippers could not meet the 1 January tariff deadline even if they accepted the disputed tank car requirements.


Council spokesman Scott Jensen said the disagreement with BNSF has not reached the point of legal action, noting that the council and institutes have not yet received a response from the railroad.  “We don’t think this is a final decision by BNSF,” Jensen said.


Officials at BNSF were not available for comment late on Thursday.

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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