February 16, 1999The Honorable Al Gore
Dear Mr. President:
I am pleased to transmit to you for introduction and referral to the appropriate committees a bill
"To authorize appropriations for hazardous material transportation safety, and for other purposes."
The proposed bill would reauthorize the Department of Transportation's (DOT's) hazardous materials transportation safety program, enhance the Department's enforcement authority, expand the uses of hazardous materials registration fees, and generally improve the effectiveness of this important safety program. In concert with the ongoing One DOT evaluation of the effectiveness of our hazardous materials safety program, this bill would build upon the strengths of this program, address existing problem areas, and achieve maximum safety in the transportation of hazardous materials in the 21st century.
This bill would provide authority, through use of appropriated and other monies, for continuation of this program through 2005. It would provide for funding of the Research and Special Program Administration's hazardous materials safety activities, in addition to State and Indian tribe planning and training grants, through the hazardous materials registration program. To facilitate this funding, the proposed bill would raise the minimum annual registration fee to $500 and eliminate the $5,000 ceiling on annual fees. Use of these registration fees, instead of general revenues, to fund regulatory and compliance activities is appropriate because it places the responsibility for funding, not on the general public, but on the industry that benefits from a uniform, national, safety promoting hazardous materials program
The proposed bill also would specifically authorize the use of registration fees to fund the printing and distribution of the North American Emergency Response Guidebook, which has been distributed every three years to emergency responders across the Nation. It also would allow States to use up to 25 percent of their hazardous materials grant monies to provide hazardous materials training for small businesses.
In addition, the proposed bill would clarify the authority of DOT's inspectors to open and examine packages they have reason to believe contain hazardous materials and to issue emergency orders to stop unsafe practices that pose an immediate threat to life, property, or the environment. This enhanced compliance authority would enable DOT inspectors to more effectively detect violations and ensure that appropriate remedial action is taken when violations or potential violations are discovered. The criminal penalty provisions would be increased for anyone who violates the hazardous materials transportation law or a regulation, order, special permit, or approval issued under it and thereby causes a release of hazardous materials
The proposed bill also would assert U.S. jurisdiction over hazardous materials activities conducted on U.S. registered aircraft between two foreign points. This change would enable the United States to carry out its obligations under the Chicago Convention.
This proposal would increase receipts; therefore it is subject to the pay-as-you-go requirement of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The Office of Management and Budget estimates that the net effect of this proposal on receipts during fiscal years 2000-2003 would be an increase of less than $1 million.
The Office of Management and Budget has advised that there is no objection, from the standpoint of the Administration's program, to the submission of this proposed legislation to Congress, and that its enactment would be in accord with the program of the President.
Rodney E. Slater
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