HAZARDOUS MATERIALS BILL SET FOR HOUSE VOTE

HAZARDOUS MATERIALS BILL SET FOR HOUSE VOTE

A House transportation committee is expected to approve a new hazardous materials transportation bill this week, but conflicts with other House committees and with the Senate still lie ahead.

John Arlington, chief counsel and staff director of the House Subcommittee onTransportation and Hazardous Materials, said Friday the full Energy and Commerce Committee is likely to clear the legislation on Tuesday.The bill, sponsored by subcommittee chairman Rep. Thomas Luken, D-Ohio, would pre-empt state regulation of hazardous materials transportation by rail with uniform federal standards. But the measure would give states primary responsibility for enforcing compliance with the new law.

The Luken bill takes a different approach than legislation under consideration by the House Public Works and Transportation Committee, which has joint jurisdiction over hazardous materials transportation.

Unlike the Luken bill, the Public Works measure emphasizes emergency response to hazardous spills and proper training for police and firefighters who battle leaks. Public Works also is considering a provision that would create a computer system for registering a transportation carrier's hazardous materials manifest.

Mr. Arlington, in an address to the Transportation Table, a forum sponsored by The Journal of Commerce, said members of his committee were skeptical of the need for extensive training of local personnel. Many firefighters, he said, don't stay in their jobs long and rarely encounter the highly toxic spills that require special training.

The Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over trucking, and Energy and Commerce, and oversees railroad safety, ultimately must agree on a single bill for reauthorizing the nation's hazardous materials transportation laws.

Mr. Arlington said he is "optimistic" that a bill can clear the House this summer but added, "We have a lot of work to do."

Robert Holleyman, senior staff member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said he sees more similarities than differences among competing proposals.

The Senate does not yet have a comprehensive hazardous materials transportation bill, but Mr. Holleyman said Sen. J. James Exon, D-Neb., chairman of the Surface Transportation Subcommittee of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, expects to hold hearings on a bill in the spring.

Mr. Holleyman also said he believes the House, the Senate and the Department of Transportation, which has its own hazardous materials transportation proposal, should be able to agree on language that would bar truckers with subpar safety records from hauling dangerous loads.

He also predicted agreement on proposals that would make it illegal to tamper with hazardous materials placards and that would establish a system of permits for haulers of ultra-hazardous materials.

But he said the Senate is likely to side with the House Public Works Committee on the need for more training of emergency response personnel.

Proponents of further training favor creation of a federal fund that would pay for instruction of state and local officials.