In a final rule issued February 14, RSPA adopted a two-tier fee schedule. Companies classified as small businesses under Small Business Administration guidelines (essentially less than $18.5 million annual income) will pay the current $300 a year. All others will pay $2,000. The agency also expanded the criteria for registration to include any person who transport or offers for transport a placardable hazardous material. The only exception is hazardous materials being hauled to support a farming operation.
In a petition to RSPA, the tank carriers took issue with some of RSPA’s numbers. In a 1999 notice of proposed rulemaking, the agency said about 27,000 businesses pay hazmat registration fees annually and it has identified over 100,000 potential registrants.
“Simple subtraction indicates that over 73,000 persons are presumed to be in non-compliance with today’s registration and fee structure,” wrote NTTC president Clifford Harvison.
In the final rule, however, RSPA said it anticipates an additional 15,000 to 18,000 new registrants under the revised rules. Add 18,000 to the 27,000 current registrants and you get 45,000 entities in compliance. That leaves 55,000 (73,000 minus 18,000) potential registrants not in compliance.
The government either “wildly overstated its case” in order to justify the fee increase, or “has tacitly admitted” that it lacks the resources to administer and enforce the registration program, said Harvison. “In either case, RSPA regrettably has chosen to ‘punish the innocent’ by forcing large numbers of complying persons to pay more.”
RSPA said the fee increase and expanded registration criteria are intended primarily to increase funding for the national Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness grants program. But Harvison pointed out that hazmat transportation incidents are “a small fraction of the total demands on the emergency response community.” He noted that many states have registration and fee programs similar to RSPA’s. Moreover, the cost of emergency response for hazmat incidents is reimbursed by the carrier or its insurers.
TTCA has also argued that the rules create opportunity to “play games” relative to whether an entity is or isn’t a “small business” or a “farmer” and whether or not someone “causes” hazmat transportation.
Harvison said TTCA wants a flat fee for everyone -- namely $345 for everyone which, by RSPA’s own calculations, would achieve the financial objective. “The extra $45 to be paid by all (including new registrants) is a small price to pay for maintain the integrity and efficacy of the hazardous materials regulatory program,” he said.