“Terrorism Concerns Results in Chemical Storage Rule Delay” #WestTexasFire #Chemicals

The Trump administration is delaying a new rule tightening safety requirements for companies that store large quantities of dangerous chemicals. The rule was imposed after a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, exploded in 2013, killing 15 people.

Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, delayed the effective date of the Obama-era rule until June.

Pruitt’s action late Monday came in response to complaints by the chemical industry and other business groups that the rule could make it easier for terrorists and other criminals to target refineries, chemical plants, and other facilities by requiring companies to make public the types and quantities of chemicals stored on site.

The EPA issued a final rule in January, seven days before President Barack Obama left office. The EPA said at the time that the rule would help prevent accidents and improve emergency preparedness by allowing first responders better data on chemical storage.

A coalition of business groups opposed the rule, saying in a letter to Pruitt that it would do “irreparable harm” to companies that store chemicals and put public safety at risk.

Chet Thompson, president and CEO of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, an industry group, praised Pruitt’s delay of the EPA rule.

“The midnight rulemaking in the final days of the Obama administration would not enhance safety, create security vulnerabilities and divert resources from further enhancing existing safety programs,” Thompson said.

Environmental groups questioned industry claims as “self-interested” and misleading.

Hazardous chemical incidents like the explosion in West, Texas, are “frighteningly common,” according to the Environmental Justice Health Alliance, an advocacy group. More than 1,500 chemical releases or explosions were reported from 20014 to 2013, causing 58 deaths and more than 17,000 injuries, the group said.

Instead of bowing to industry complaints, the EPA should “stand with the first responders, at-risk communities, safety experts, workers, small businesses and others who live at daily risk of a catastrophic chemical release or explosion,” the group wrote in a letter last month to members of Congress.

The Obama-era rule came after a three-year process that included eight public hearings and more than 44,000 public comments, the group said.

The Obama administration said the rule would help prevent chemical incidents such as the 2013 explosion in Texas, while enhancing emergency preparedness requirements, improving management of data on chemical storage and modernizing policies and regulations.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said the Obama-era rule gives “a blueprint to those who would like to do us harm,” adding that existing regulations will remain in place to continue ensuring the safety of chemical plants and other facilities.

Source: Insurance Journal

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“Regulated Industry Successfully Challenges New OSHA Process Safety Management Enforcement Policies”

On September 23, 2016, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wrongfully adopted new safety requirements for fertilizer dealers who have to comply with the Process Safety Management Standard. Specifically, OSHA improperly issued a memorandum redefining the “retail facility” exemption and did not allow fertilizer dealers to comment on the new rules.

OSHA has promulgated a Process Safety Management (PSM) standard that implements certain requirements for employers to protect the safety of those who work with or near highly hazardous chemicals, and help prevent unexpected releases of such chemicals. Traditionally, retail establishments do not have to comply with the PSM standard because hazardous chemicals are present only in small volumes in such instances.

Following a 2013 explosion at a West Texas Fertilizer facility (videos above) that left 15 people dead after a large amount of ammonium nitrate caught fire, OSHA issued an enforcement memorandum expanding the scope of the PSM standard to cover more retail establishments, including agricultural dealers who sell anhydrous ammonia to farmers. Yet OSHA did this without requesting comments from the public or industry.

Working with legal counsel, the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) and The Fertilizer Institute organized a successful lawsuit challenging the new rule. The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that OSHA violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act when it issued the enforcement memorandum, finding that OSHA had engaged in rulemaking, and was thus bound to solicit comments from the public and industry. As a result of the successful lawsuit, ag retailers do not have to comply with the PSM standard until OSHA receives comments from the public and industry regarding the proposed changes to the PSM standard, which could take several years to finalize.

Commenting on the decision, Harold Cooper, chairman of the ARA, said that “[a]s an industry, ag retailers tend to be complacent about regulations that come our way. We keep our heads down and do what’s required,” he said. “But this rule would have limited farmers’ and retailers’ options through an agency’s improper regulatory overreach. Thankfully, ARA was uniquely prepared and positioned to defend our industry. They gave us a vehicle to fight and win this battle.”

The court’s ruling will make it more difficult in the future for OSHA to issue de facto standards without undertaking proper rulemaking procedures and soliciting comments from the public. Companies should proactively work with skilled legal counsel who can assist on rulemaking processes that impact workplace health and safety.

Source: 9/27/2016 by Daniel BirnbaumMichael Taylor  | BakerHostetler

 

 

 

 

 

“U.S. Chemical Safety Board Releases New Safety Video, “Dangerously Close: Explosion in West, Texas,” Detailing Report Findings and Recommendations on 2013 Fatal West Fertilizer Company Explosion and Fire “

January 29, 2016, Washington, DC – Today the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a safety video into the fatal April 17, 2013, fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas, which resulted in 15 fatalities, more than 260 injuries, and widespread community damage. The deadly fire and explosion occurred when about thirty tons of fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate (FGAN) exploded after being heated by a fire at the storage and distribution facility.

The CSB’s newly released 12-minute safety video entitled, “Dangerously Close: Explosion in West, Texas,” includes a 3D animation of the fire and explosion as well as interviews with CSB investigators and Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland. The video can be viewed above or on the CSB’s website and YouTube.

Chairperson Sutherland said, “This tragic accident should not have happened. We hope that this video, by sharing lessons learned from our West Fertilizer Company investigation, will help raise awareness of the hazards of fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate so that a similar accident can be avoided in the future.”

The CSB’s investigation found that several factors contributed to the severity of the explosion, including poor hazard awareness and fact that nearby homes and business were built in close proximity to the West Fertilizer Company over the years prior to the accident. The video explains that there was a stockpile of 40 to 60 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the facility in plywood bins on the night of the explosion. And although FGAN is stable under normal conditions, it can violently detonate when exposed to contaminants in a fire.

In the video, Team Lead Johnnie Banks says, “We found that as the city of West crept closer and closer to the facility, the surrounding community was not made aware of the serious explosion hazard in their midst. And the West Fertilizer Company underestimated the danger of storing fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate in ordinary combustible structures.”

The CSB investigation concludes that this lack of awareness was due to several factors, including gaps in federal regulatory coverage of ammonium nitrate storage facilities. The video details safety recommendations made to OSHA and the EPA to strengthen their regulations to protect the public from hazards posed by FGAN.

Finally, the video explains how inadequate emergency planning contributed to the tragic accident. The CSB found that the West Volunteer Fire Department was not required to perform pre-incident planning for an ammonium nitrate-related emergency, nor were the volunteer firefighters required to attend training on responding to fires involving hazardous chemicals. As a result, the CSB made several safety recommendations to various stakeholders, including the EPA, to better inform and train emergency responders on the hazards of FGAN and other hazardous chemicals.

Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “The CSB’s goal is to ensure that no one else be killed or injured due to a lack of awareness of hazardous chemicals in their communities. If adopted, the Board’s recommendations can help prevent disasters like the one in West, Texas.”

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. The agency’s board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems. The Board does not issue citations or fines but makes safety recommendations to companies, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Please visit our website, www.csb.gov

For more information, contact Communications Manager Hillary Cohen at public@csb.gov or by phone at 202.446.8095.

 

Testimony of CSB at Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing – Chevron Fire, West Texas Explosion & West Va. Water Crisis

CSB

U.S. Chemical Safety Board Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso at March 6, 2014, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing Entitled “Preventing Potential Chemical Threats and Improving Safety: Oversight of the President’s Executive Order on Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security”

CLICK HERE to view the written statement

Chairman Boxer, Senator Vitter, and distinguished Committee members – thank you for inviting me today. I am Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso, Chairperson of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

The Chevron refinery fire in California in 2012the West Texas explosion last year – the West Virginia water crisis in January:

All of these were preventable accidents. 

The United States is facing an industrial chemical safety crisis.

After all of these accidents, we hear frustration and heartbreak.  Workers, emergency responders, and the public continue to die and suffer injuries.

Estus Powell, a father who lost his daughter in the 2010 fire at the Tesoro refinery in Washington, recently told us, “My life was forever changed. All I want to know is, does anybody care?  It seems we can get nobody to have any teeth in anything, to get anything done.” 

Our investigations have concluded that certain fundamental changes are needed.  We have a regulatory system that sometimes encourages paper compliance over real risk reduction.

As an interim measure, I advocate that the EPA use its existing authority under the Clean Air Act to encourage chemical facilities to make their operations inherently safer where it is feasible to do so.

Then the EPA should follow up by adopting specific regulations with clear requirements.

The goal should be to drive chemical process risks “as low as reasonably practicable.”  In Europe, this is a cornerstone of the regulatory system.  Insurance statistics tell us European chemical sites have an accident rate at least three times lower than the U.S.

Time and again, as our reports show, we find examples where companies could have used available, feasible, safer technologies to prevent disastrous accidents, but chose not to do so.

I realize inherently safer technology, or IST, is a term that has drawn some controversy.  But it is really just a well-established concept, developed by industry and used by industry. 

It focuses on eliminating or minimizing hazards, instead of just trying to control hazards that already exist. Many accidents could be prevented using off-the-shelf technologies such as corrosion resistant materials, or reducing the storage of hazardous materials to the minimum necessary. 

In West Virginia, applying these principles could have prevented or reduced the consequences of the recent spill.  For example, the chemical storage tank could have been sited away from drinking water supplies and constructed of resistant materials.

I commend Senators Boxer, Manchin, and Rockefeller for promptly introducing legislation on this and encourage you to pass a strong bill.

I am also encouraged by the leadership of the White House on these issues – especially the executive order on chemical safety – and I hope that regulatory agencies respond in kind.  

The EPA has the authority today to require companies to apply IST in design, equipment, and processes. I call on industry to join in supporting this reform, which companies know will go a long way to stopping these catastrophes.

I must add that no regulatory system will work unless regulatory agencies like the EPA and OSHA receive more resources for more highly specialized, technical inspectors.

Madam Chairman, your own state of California has been leading the way in this.  Following the Chevron fire in 2012, the legislature has moved to triple the number of process safety inspectors, using fees collected from the refining industry.  And California is going to mandate using safer technologies and is looking at what’s called the “safety case” model.  Under the safety case, the burden is on companies to prove they can operate safely by following the most up to date safety standards.  It’s a condition of operating.

In conclusion, these major accidents don’t have to happen.  They kill and injure workers, harm communities, and destroy productive businesses.  The best companies in the U.S. and overseas know how to prevent these disasters – but we need a regulatory system here that ensures all companies are operating to the same high standards.

That concludes my testimony. Thank you. 

CSB Chair Calls for Regulatory Coverage of Reactive Chemicals Following the West Fertilizer Explosion and Fire

Washington, DC, August 20, 2013 – In a new video safety message released today, CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso calls for regulatory coverage of reactive chemicals following the massive ammonium nitrate explosion that killed at least 14 people and devastated the town of West, Texas, on April 17, 2013. Reactive chemicals, like ammonium nitrate, can undergo potentially hazardous chemical reactions, such as violently detonating, if not managed properly.

 

The safety message includes testimony from Chairperson Moure-Eraso during a hearing about the West accident before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. At that hearing, held on June 27, 2013, Chairperson Moure-Eraso said, “The destruction I personally saw at West – the obliteration of homes, schools and businesses by an ammonium nitrate explosion – was almost beyond imagination.” 

 

As noted in the video, the CSB has determined that ammonium nitrate storage falls under a patchwork of U.S. standards and guidance, which does not prohibit many of the conditions found at the West facility. These include the use of combustible wooden storage bins and buildings and a lack of sprinkler systems in case of fire. 

 

Chairperson Moure-Eraso stated, “The fertilizer industry tells us that U.S. sites commonly store ammonium nitrate in wooden buildings and bins – even near homes, schools or other vulnerable facilities.  This situation must be addressed.” 

 

The video safety message concludes, “The CSB believes it’s past time for OSHA and EPA to regulate reactive hazards – including ammonium nitrate – under their process safety rules.”

 

In a 2002 study, the CSB called on OSHA and the EPA to expand their standards to include reactive chemicals and hazards, but to date neither agency has acted on the recommendations.  During the Senate hearing, Chairman Moure-Eraso said, “Ammonium nitrate would likely have been included, if the EPA had adopted our 2002 recommendation to cover reactive chemicals under its Risk Management Program. And OSHA has not focused extensively on ammonium nitrate storage and hadn’t inspected West since 1985.”

 

The safety message goes on to describe other serious reactive chemical accidents investigated by the CSB since its 2002 study.  These include a December 19, 2007, explosion and fire at T2 Laboratories in Jacksonville, Florida; a January 31, 2006, explosion at the Synthron chemical manufacturing facility in Morganton, North Carolina; and an April 12, 2004, toxic release at MFG Chemical in Dalton, Georgia.

 

The safety message can be viewed on CSB.gov, the CSB’s safety message channel on YouTube, www.youtube.com/safetymessages, and the CSB’s Facebook page for the West explosion, www.facebook.com/westexplosion.

 

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency’s board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

 

The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, http://www.csb.gov.

 

For more information, contact Communications Manager Hillary Cohen, cell 202-446-8094 or Sandy Gilmour at 202-251-5496 or email the CSB Public Affairs Department at public@csb.gov

Few Texas Counties Follow Federal Chemical Preparedness Law – (LEPC’s)

by BRETT SHIPP –WFAA

Posted on May 14, 2013 at 6:05 PM

Updated today at 8:31 PM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

A statewide survey by News 8 has found a dramatic lack of compliance with a federal mandate that orders counties to operate a planning committee that helps anticipate and respond to emergencies at plants storing hazardous chemicals.

Every county in Texas is required by the by the Environmental Protection Agency to have a Local Emergency Planning Committee, or LEPC, in place. These “serve as a focal point in the community for information and discussions about hazardous substance emergency planning,” according to the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act.

So why are so many Texas counties apparently not following the law?

Monday’s meeting of the Dallas County Emergency Planning Committee consisted of a room full of local leaders from the emergency management, medical and business community.

A News 8 investigation analyzed what is billed as an active list of county LEPC coordinators, which is  published by the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

Of the 254 counties in Texas, spokespeople for 35 of them said their counties have active LEPC meetings at least once a year. Meanwhile, 41 emergency management coordinators either admit to not having or could not provide proof of an existing LEPC.

Ammonium nitrate storage map

The vast majority — 190 counties — either had outdated contact information or chose not to respond to News 8. This includes McLennan County, the location where the West Fertilizer Company plant exploded on April 17, killing 15 people.

Again, the LEPC’s role is “local planning for hazardous materials.” Residents in West who spoke to News 8 spoke said they had no idea explosive chemicals were located in their neighborhood.

“I’ve never known what was stored there, and I’ve lived here all my life,” said Willie Zahirniak, whose home in West was damaged by the blast.

Jim Moore, Director of Progress Texas PAC, said the lack of compliance with the law in Texas comes as no surprise.

“So for the EPA to mandate something, the state legislature, the governor’s office, even at the local level, they are just going to push back on it and maybe ignore it, which seems to be the case of what happened,” Moore said.

The Texas Division of Emergency Management is charged with keeping track of the state’s LEPCs and their membership.

At a hearing of the Texas House Public Safety Committee two weeks ago, Texas Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd testified about the chemical explosion in West.

“I would submit to you that even in the midst of that great tragedy, the system worked,” Chief Kidd testified.

But following the hearing, as Kidd rushed out of the hearing room, he told News 8 he did not have time to elaborate.

“What I said was the local emergency management officials responded to that incident,” Kidd said as he briskly exited the Texas State Capitol annex.

For the past two weeks, Kidd has repeatedly declined formal interview requests. He also has not supplied membership rosters for all of the state’s LEPCs, which News 8 has asked for repeatedly.

State Rep. Joe Pickett (D-El Paso), who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said the discovery of so many inactive LEPCs statewide is disturbing.

Read the rest of the story here: http://www.wfaa.com/news/investigates/News-8-Investigation-Few-in-Texas-follow-federal-chemical-preparedness-law-207443781.html

Courtesy of WFAA® Texas

Fire Prevention Weekly Update – May 13, 2013

u-s-fire-administration

  1. Campaigns / Other Fire Prevention Efforts
  2. Campus fire safety
  3. Inspections/Code enforcement
  4. Smoke Alarms
  5. Sprinklers
  6. Wildland Fire Safety
  7. Fire safety tips and reminders
  8. Other Safety News
  9. International News

Links to Fire Prevention-related news articles – Updated 05/13/2013

Campaigns/ Other Fire Safety Activities

  1. Fire department on mission to put smoke detectors in every home (Idaho)
  2. Fire agency offers home safety checks (Colorado)
  3. Volunteers knock for fire safety during Council Bluffs canvass (Iowa)
  4. Firefighters to hold “Give Burns the Boot” drive (Georgia)
  5. Teaching Fire Prevention at March for Babies (New York)
  6. Students to learn fire safety and prevention (Tennessee)
  7. Fire district, call center launch smoke-detector program (Florida)
  8. Working For You: Checking Your School’s Fire Safety Procedures (Texas)
  9. Facebook challenges others to match school fire safety gift
  10. Fire safety initiative for high-risk audiences gets underway (Massachusetts)
  11. RCFD pushes fire safety at local school (South Dakota)
  12. GFD helps hotels improve fire safety (Guam)

Campus fire safety

  1. GW Extends Fire Safety to Study Abroad

Inspections / Code enforcement

  1. Fire codes are intended to protect us
  2. New building code kept fire from spreading, officials say (Canada)

Smoke Alarms

  1. I Survived Part 2 – Galesburg House Fire (Illinois)
  2. Smoke detector saves family from fire in west Houston
  3. Smoke Detector Helps Save OKC Man’s Life (Oklahoma)

Sprinklers

  1. Manhattan Fire Protection District Recognized As Fire-Safe Community (Illinois)
  2. Ontario governments sets deadlines for sprinklers in seniors homes
  3. Mall fire eliminated by fire sprinkler system (St. George, UT)
  4. Sprinklers save new townhome (Pennsylvania)
  5. Editorial: Mandate sprinklers in new homes
  6. 5 Myths About Home Fire Sprinklers (IBHS)
  7. Recent fire in Waterville prompt city councilors to form fire safety panel
  8. Amusement park fire contained by fire sprinklers (Scottsdale, AZ)
  9. West Fertilizer had no fire sprinklers, company spokesman says (Texas)
  10. Sprinklers help save Plainville building

Wildland Fire Safety

  1. California Wildfire Preparedness Week: Creating Fire-Adapted Communities in California
  2. County unveils fire safety program
  3. Wildfire Awareness Week and Arson Awareness Week – May 4 – 11
  4. New York Offcials Warn on Wildfire Danger
  5. Firewise Communities Participate in First CO Wildfire Preparedness Day of Service
  6. NH Prescribed Fire Council plans educational meetings
  7. NFPA celebrates 10th anniversary of 34 official Firewise communities (NFPA)
  8. GOATS TAKING BITE OUT OF FIRE HAZARD (California)
  9. SD Firewise Program Helps Clean Up Area Forests

Safety tips and reminders

  1. Smoking and oxygen lead to fatal fire (Virginia)
  2. State Fire Marshal gives arson prevention tips
  3. Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office provides Electrical Fire Prevention Tips

Other Safety News

  1. Western Fire Chiefs Association president weighs in with Fighting Fire with Facts
  2. How the Cayuga County Red Cross responds to home fires (New York)
  3. Repeat Fires Put Maine Apartment Dwellers On Edge
  4. Texas Fire Marshal hopes to find cause of fertilizer plant blast
  5. Fire Protection Research Foundation releases report on lithium-ion batteries
  6. Closed bedroom door saves woman from flat fire (UK)
  7. Meijer recalls more than 4500 heaters for fire hazard

Fire Prevention News: International

  1. Caroline Springs youngster’s low-down on fire safety (Australia)
  2. New building code kept fire from spreading, officials say (Canada)
  3. Closed bedroom door saves woman from flat fire (UK)

Update! Reglatory Confusion & Oversight Lead To West Fertilizer & Chemical Company, West Texas Explosion & Fire

Courtesy of MSNBC All In Part 1

Courtesy of MSNBC All In Part 2

 

Before 270 tons of ammonium nitratet exploded at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant last Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security “did not even know the plant existed,”  ranking Republican on the DHS House committee Bernie Thompson said Monday.

According to Reuters, 270 tons of ammonium nitrate is 1,350 times more than what should trigger safety oversight from the DHS. (For comparison, the West fertilizer plant had 135 times more ammonium nitrate on its premises than Timothy McVeigh used when he blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.) But the last full safety inspection of West plant was 28 years ago.

Why had regulation on this plant become so lax in the last three decades? MSNBC’s Alex Wagner blamed President George W. Bush on The Last Word Thursday:

“We celebrated the man’s presidency today at the opening of his presidential library,” Wagner said, “but if you look at what happened to OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration], which is the organization which oversees workplace hazards and really has an eye out for the American worker, I believe 86% fewer regulations were issued under Bush. The man he appointed to head OSHA literally fell asleep on the job multiple times…the notion of regulation became a very bad thing under Bush.”

The “bad notion of regulation” was echoed by Texas Governor Rick Perry Monday in Chicago, on a trip meant to lure businesses to the Lone Star state.

“All business have to look at their bottom line,” Perry told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Taxes, regulation, legal system, workforce–that’s what government does. Government can either be a hurdle or it can smooth out the road. We think in Texas we smoothed that road out as good as anybody.”

On The Last Word Thursday, MSNBC’s Richard Wolffe pushed back against the ”smoothing out” of the regulatory road when it leads to unsafe work environments.

“You’ve got to ask yourself as governor, elected by the people in Texas, are you representing business interests–because that’s one measure of his success, right? [Perry] brags about how many business he’s pulled out of other states and therefore ‘created’ those jobs…that’s one measure of him. Another measure is: are your voters, your citizens, safe? When they go to work, do they come home at the end of the day?”

Investigators are still trying to determine what ignited the massive build-up of ammonium nitrate–theories include a small seed fire that could have burst into flame, or the sparking of another flammable gas called anhydrous ammonia–but nothing is confirmed. What’s certain is that the amount of ammonium nitrate present in the plant was an accident waiting to happen.

“The whole thing may have fallen through a number of regulatory cracks,” a federal official whose agency helped regulate the plant told The New York Times Wednesday.

Now those cracks have caused the deaths of at least a 14 people, with a final death toll still to come.

 

West Fertilizer (Anhydrous Ammonia) Plant Update & CSB Deploys To Massive Deadly Explosion And Fire at Fertilizer Plant In West,Texas

Rescue crews are searching the smoldering remains of a fertilizer (anhydrous ammonia) facility in central Texas, and a swath of destroyed homes around it, for victims of a massive explosion that injured more than 160 people and may have killed as many as 15, authorities said.

The estimate of how many may have died in the explosion Wednesday night includes an estimated three or four “first responders” who remained missing hours after the blast, most likely volunteer firefighters or ambulance workers. Officials said they were among many who responded to a fire at the West Fertilizer retail facility and were urgently trying to evacuate people from the area, after realizing that the blaze had the potential to trigger a huge blast.

“Last night was truly a nightmare scenario in that community,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) said Thursday, adding, “This tragedy has most likely hit every family” in West, a tiny town 20 miles north of Waco with a population of 2,800.

Source: Washington Post ®  (See the latest updates on the Texas explosion here.)

Note: Graphic language in video, but it shows the ferocity of an anhydrous ammonia explosion.

West Texas Plant Told The EPA That It Had “No Risk For Explosion”.

I am so very tired of seeing the horrific results of three decades of deficit hawkery, which weakened the regulatory infrastructure of this country and results in completely preventable and massive tragedies like this. Let’s start with the lax zoning requirements, which allowed such a high-risk enterprise smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

And the Chemical Safety Board, which was deployed to the West TX site last night, is chronically understaffed and inadequate because… you guessed it, it’s underfunded by a Big Oil-friendly Congress! They get $10.5 million to regulate an industry with 170 major companies making 70,000 different chemicals, totaling $750 billion revenue. Thanks, Congress!

Then there’s OSHA, which is supposed to protect workers in the workplace but is really more of a fig leaf. Do you know how many OSHA inspectors we have for the entire country — more accurately, how many we don’t? Six fertilizer plants were inspected by OSHA in the past five years. West Fertilizer was not one of them. (When West Texas was cited for OSHA violations in 1985, their fine was $30.)

Experts say for a country the size of the United States, we should have 12,000 OSHA inspectors. We have 2,220. And the fines are laughable.

So remember: This tragedy was completely preventable. We just didn’t bother. Because Grover Norquist fights to keep that money out of government agencies and in the pockets of the 1%. Freedom!

The West Fertilizer Co factory of Texas, which exploded late Wednesday, was fined in 2006 by the Environmental Protection Agency for not having a risk-management plan. The same year the plant reported it posed ‘no risk’ of fire.

Complaints were made in June 2006 regarding a strong smell of ammonia emanating from the plant, according to reports publicized by The Dallas Morning News (DMN).

The concerns prompted Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to investigate. The plant was fined later in August by the EPA, which imposed a fine of $2,300 for failure to have a risk-management plan that was in line with federal standards.

Such federal regulations are in place to ensure the prevention of chemical accidents through safeguards.

A later report filed by the plant itself with EPA stated “no” under fire or explosive risks, saying that the, “worst possible scenario … would be a 10-minute release of ammonia gas that would injure no one.”

Ah, yes — self reporting! The process pushed by Ronald Reagan to replace federal inspectors, who claimed companies would be honest because after all, who would want the liability costs of lying? Just about everyone, as it turns out.

They went on to say that their ‘second-worst’ scenario would be a leak from a broken hose used to transfer the product, which would also not result in any injuries.

The facility stated that it had no other dangerous chemicals on hand, adding that the plan was on file with the local fire department and that the company adhered to proper safety rules.

Anhydrous ammonia is liable to explode if kept in certain concentrations inside containers. However, it is not generally considered a risk when in the air and in gas form.

Regulators in Texas were fully aware that the fertilizer plant harbored two 12,000-gallon tanks of anhydrous ammonia and was near a school and residential neighborhood.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) online records also show that there have been no federal inspections of West Fertilizer Co. over the past five years.

West Fertilizer Co. aka Adair Grain Inc. is owned/managed by Donald Adair, Tedd Uptmore and Wanda Adair, according to Lee Fang. Grain elevators are also prone to explosions. Seems like it might be a good idea to inspect all of their holdings. I wonder if it will happen. And I wonder if our lazy, complicit media will look at the larger picture.

Source: Crooks & Liars

CSB Deploys to Massive Explosion and Fire at Fertilizer Plant Near Waco, Texas

Washington, DC, April 17, 2013 –  A large investigation team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is deploying to the scene of a massive fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Plant located in West, Texas, north of Waco.

Local emergency officials have told the CSB of a large number of injuries and destroyed buildings in the town.

The investigative team will be led CSB Western Regional Office Director Don Holmstrom and is scheduled to arrive in Texas Thursday afternoon.

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency’s board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

For more information, contact Hillary Cohen at 202.446.8094  Hillary.Cohen@csb.govor Sandy Gilmour at 202. 251.5496  Sandy.Gilmour@csb.gov.

Note: The political rhetoric noted in the piece above from Crooks and Liars was used not as a reflection of this Blog’s political leanings. It was used for facts related to why “Incidents Like this Happen”in the USA..

 

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