View all text of Subchapter I [§ 20101 - § 20121]

§ 20103.
General authority
(a)
Regulations and Orders.—
The Secretary of Transportation, as necessary, shall prescribe regulations and issue orders for every area of railroad safety supplementing laws and regulations in effect on October 16, 1970. When prescribing a security regulation or issuing a security order that affects the safety of railroad operations, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall consult with the Secretary.
(b)
Regulations of Practice for Proceedings.—
The Secretary shall prescribe regulations of practice applicable to each proceeding under this chapter. The regulations shall reflect the varying nature of the proceedings and include time limits for disposition of the proceedings. The time limit for disposition of a proceeding may not be more than 12 months after the date it begins.
(c)
Consideration of Information and Standards.—
In prescribing regulations and issuing orders under this section, the Secretary shall consider existing relevant safety information and standards.
(d)
Nonemergency Waivers.—
(1)
In general.—
The Secretary of Transportation may waive, or suspend the requirement to comply with, any part of a regulation prescribed or an order issued under this chapter if such waiver or suspension is in the public interest and consistent with railroad safety.
(2)
Notice required.—
The Secretary shall—
(A) provide timely public notice of any request for a waiver under this subsection or for a suspension under subpart E of part 211 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, or successor regulations;
(B) make available the application for such waiver or suspension and any nonconfidential underlying data to interested parties;
(C) provide the public with notice and a reasonable opportunity to comment on a proposed waiver or suspension under this subsection before making a final decision; and
(D) publish on a publicly accessible website the reasons for granting each such waiver or suspension.
(3)
Information protection.—
Nothing in this subsection may be construed to require the release of information protected by law from public disclosure.
(4)
Rulemaking.—
(A)
In general.—
Not later than 1 year after the first day on which a waiver under this subsection or a suspension under subpart E of part 211 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, or successor regulations, has been in continuous effect for a 6-year period, the Secretary shall complete a review and analysis of such waiver or suspension to determine whether issuing a rule that is consistent with the waiver is—
(i) in the public interest; and
(ii) consistent with railroad safety.
(B)
Factors.—
In conducting the review and analysis under subparagraph (A), the Secretary shall consider—
(i) the relevant safety record under the waiver or suspension;
(ii) the likelihood that other entities would have similar safety outcomes;
(iii) the materials submitted in the applications, including any comments regarding such materials; and
(iv) related rulemaking activity.
(C)
Notice and comment.—
(i)
In general.—
The Secretary shall publish the review and analysis required under this paragraph in the Federal Register, which shall include a summary of the data collected and all relevant underlying data, if the Secretary decides not to initiate a regulatory update under subparagraph (D).
(ii)
Notice of proposed rulemaking.—
The review and analysis under this paragraph shall be included as part of the notice of proposed rulemaking if the Secretary initiates a regulatory update under subparagraph (D).
(D)
Regulatory update.—
The Secretary may initiate a rulemaking to incorporate relevant aspects of a waiver under this subsection or a suspension under subpart E of part 211 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, or successor regulations, into the relevant regulation, to the extent the Secretary considers appropriate.
(5)
Rule of construction.—
Nothing in this subsection may be construed to delay any waiver granted pursuant to this subsection that is in the public interest and consistent with railroad safety.
(e)
Hearings.—
The Secretary shall conduct a hearing as provided by section 553 of title 5 when prescribing a regulation or issuing an order under this part, including a regulation or order establishing, amending, or providing a waiver, described in subsection (d), of compliance with a railroad safety regulation prescribed or order issued under this part. An opportunity for an oral presentation shall be provided.
(f)
Tourist Railroad Carriers.—
In prescribing regulations that pertain to railroad safety that affect tourist, historic, scenic, or excursion railroad carriers, the Secretary of Transportation shall take into consideration any financial, operational, or other factors that may be unique to such railroad carriers. The Secretary shall submit a report to Congress not later than September 30, 1995, on actions taken under this subsection.
(g)
Emergency Waivers.—
(1)
In general.—
The Secretary may waive compliance with any part of a regulation prescribed or order issued under this part without prior notice and comment if the Secretary determines that—
(A) it is in the public interest to grant the waiver;
(B) the waiver is not inconsistent with railroad safety; and
(C) the waiver is necessary to address an actual or impending emergency situation or emergency event.
(2)
Period of waiver.—
A waiver under this subsection may be issued for a period of not more than 60 days and may be renewed upon application to the Secretary only after notice and an opportunity for a hearing on the waiver. The Secretary shall immediately revoke the waiver if continuation of the waiver would not be consistent with the goals and objectives of this part.
(3)
Statement of reasons.—
The Secretary shall state in the decision issued under this subsection the reasons for granting the waiver.
(4)
Consultation.—
In granting a waiver under this subsection, the Secretary shall consult and coordinate with other Federal agencies, as appropriate, for matters that may impact such agencies.
(5)
Emergency situation; emergency event.—
In this subsection, the terms “emergency situation” and “emergency event” mean a natural or manmade disaster, such as a hurricane, flood, earthquake, mudslide, forest fire, snowstorm, terrorist act, biological outbreak, release of a dangerous radiological, chemical, explosive, or biological material, or a war-related activity, that poses a risk of death, serious illness, severe injury, or substantial property damage. The disaster may be local, regional, or national in scope.
(Pub. L. 103–272, § 1(e), July 5, 1994, 108 Stat. 863; Pub. L. 103–440, title II, § 217, Nov. 2, 1994, 108 Stat. 4624; Pub. L. 107–296, title XVII, § 1710(b), Nov. 25, 2002, 116 Stat. 2319; Pub. L. 110–432, div. A, title III, § 308, Oct. 16, 2008, 122 Stat. 4881; Pub. L. 117–58, div. B, title II, § 22411, Nov. 15, 2021, 135 Stat. 742.)