What to Look for as Congress Sets a Six-Year Agenda for Dangerous Goods Transport

The House and Senate are largely in sync when it comes to determining a path through fiscal year 2021 for hazardous materials transportation programs. 

A House committee yesterday approved a highway reauthorization bill that would set policy and funding levels for the programs that ensure hazardous materials—anything from nail polish to crude oil—are transported safely. The Senate passed its own version of the bill in July, and now the two versions must be reconciled in conference committee. 

Here are how some provisions are likely to be settled as the two chambers meet in conference:

Hazmat programs aren’t going to get wished-for funding. Just look at the below graph. Or you can consider FY 2016. The administration requested $64 million for FY 2016. The Senate offered up to $44 million. The House offered $53 million. This won’t be an administration win.


Congress is going to take a stance on crude-by-rail policy. Congress stayed on the sidelines when public scrutiny of crude-by-rail was at its peak, offering policy solutions but giving the Transportation Department room to offer its own solution first. Now that DOT’s rule is final, the chambers are checking DOT with mandates on everything from brakes to notification. 

Congress still won’t budge on that administration user fee proposal, but it isn’t saying no to everything. Neither the House nor the Senate included the administration’s request to add a user fee for certain hazmat programs. But, other DOT requests—such as receiving the authority to alter hazmat rules in case of a national emergency to allow materials such as propane to get to areas that need it—are in both bills.

Authorization for hazmat programs expires Thursday. Another short-term patch will almost definitely be used to allow for time to conference the two bills.  

Check back here and at @BBNAEnvironment for developments.