U.S. Department of Transportation Briefs:
DOT Weighs in on “Medical Marijuana” and reinforces the message of “Safety First” for owners and operators of pipeline systems and other freight and commodity transporters • DOT’s Jim L. Swart from the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance issues clarifying notice in response to recently issued DOJ guidelines. Recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued guidelines for Federal prosecutors in states that have enacted laws authorizing the use of “medical marijuana.” Click HERE to see that document. We have had several inquiries about whether the DOJ advice to Federal prosecutors regarding pursuing criminal cases will have an impact upon the Department of Transportation’s longstanding regulation about the use of marijuana by safety-sensitive transportation employees – pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, train engineers, subway operators, aircraft maintenance personnel, transit fire-armed security personnel, ship captains, and pipeline emergency response personnel, among others. We want to make it perfectly clear that the DOJ guidelines will have no bearing on the Department of Transportation’s regulated drug testing program. We will not change our regulated drug testing program based upon these guidelines to Federal prosecutors. The Department of Transportation’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation – 49 CFR Part 40, at 40.151(e) – does not authorize “medical marijuana” under a state law to be a valid medical explanation for a transportation employee’s positive drug test result. That section states: § 40.151 What are MROs prohibited from doing as part of the verification process? As an MRO, you are prohibited from doing the following as part of the verification process: (e) You must not verify a test negative based on information that a physician recommended that the employee use a drug listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. (e.g., under a state law that purports to authorize such recommendations, such as the “medical marijuana” laws that some states have adopted.) Therefore, Medical Review Officers will not verify a drug test as negative based upon information that a physician recommended that the employee use “medical marijuana.” Please note that marijuana remains a drug listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. It remains unacceptable for any safety-sensitive employee subject to drug testing under the Department of Transportation’s drug testing regulations to use marijuana. We want to assure the traveling public that our transportation system is the safest it can possibly be. • DOT Proposes Fine for Enterprise Products Following Investigation into Kansas Pipeline Failure; Secretary Lahood warns all freight and commodity transporters: “Safety First.” The U.S. Department of Transportation today proposed to fine Enterprise Products Operating, LLC for alleged violations of federal pipeline safety regulations. The proposed $466,200 fine follows the Department’s investigation into the pipeline company’s September 2007 failure near Englewood, KS. “Today’s action reinforces a message the Department has communicated for years to owners and operators of pipeline systems and other freight and commodity transporters - - Safety First,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The proposed fine and finding of probable violation are a result of an accident investigation recently completed by the Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). During the investigation, PHMSA investigators discovered possible failures by Enterprise to ensure pipeline workers were adequately trained to perform necessary system repairs as required by federal operator qualification regulations. Proper implementation of operator qualification programs by pipeline companies is vital to preventing system failures, injury to people, property damage, and other serious consequences. Other probable violations include failures to conduct required drug testing of maintenance personnel following the accident. “America expects pipeline operators to use highly skilled and qualified people to construct, maintain, and operate its energy pipeline networks,” Secretary LaHood added. “The goal is not to punish operators, but to hold them accountable for protecting the health, welfare and safety of American communities.” On Sept. 11, 2007, PHMSA inspectors responded to an Enterprise Products pipeline rupture and release of approximately 14,700 barrels of natural gas liquid (a highly volatile product). Post-accident failure analysis determined the failure was due to the improper installation of pipeline system components following recently conducted maintenance activities. Although the release did not result in any deaths or injuries to the public, the event closed State Highway 283 for five days, seriously affecting daily commuters as crews worked to secure and clean-up spilled product. Enterprise Products operates approximately 35,000 miles of pipelines in 19 states. PHMSA inspectors and their state pipeline safety partners are committed to ensuring the safety of America’s pipeline transportation system and will continue to carefully monitor Enterprise Products’ activities. Operators may request an administrative hearing to contest proposed violations identified by PHMSA investigators before any findings and fines from an investigation are deemed final. PHOTO: Ray Lahood, U.S. DOT Secretary.