Proposed rulemaking: Hazardous materials transportation

Comments solicited for DOT hazmat transport registration and fee program

   A registration fee system should: (1) Be simple, straightforward, and easily implemented and enforced; (2) employ an equity factor reflecting the differences in level of risk to the public and the financial impact associated with the business activities of large and small businesses; and (3) ensure adequate funding for the HMEP grants program. Under Federal hazmat law, we have the discretion to increase registration fees for both small and large businesses. We considered several alternatives for increasing the funds available for the HMEP grants program. One option was to increase the fee for all businesses offering for transportation or transporting the covered hazardous materials. Another option was to maintain the fee for small businesses and not-for-profit organizations while adjusting the fee for larger businesses.

   Due to a surplus, in 2003, we temporarily adjusted the registration fee to $125 (plus a $25 processing fee) for small businesses and not-for-profit organizations and $275 (plus a $25 processing fee) for all other registrants. (68 FR 1342) This reduction has reduced the current surplus to approximately $14 million at the end of FY 2007.

   To achieve the statutorily mandated goal of funding the HMEP grants program activities at approximately $28,000,000 and avoid a surplus in the HMEP grants account, we are proposing to delay increasing the registration fees by leaving registration fees for persons other than small businesses at the current level of $975 (plus $25 processing fee) for registration year 2008-2009 and raising the fees to $2,475 (plus $25 processing fee) for registration year 2009-2010 and following.

   We believe adjusting the fee solely for larger, for-profit businesses is the best approach to meet the objectives listed above. Although there are exceptions, small businesses and not-for-profit organizations generally offer for transportation or transport fewer and smaller hazardous materials shipments as compared to larger companies. Raising the registration fee only for other-than-small businesses rather than for all businesses correlates the fee structure to the level of risk associated with shipments offered for transportation and transported by larger companies.

   Moreover, increasing the registration fees only for other-than-small businesses will affect significantly fewer entities and will affect entities that can more easily absorb the increase.