Advertisements

“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

Advertisements

“11 Tips for Handling Hazardous Materials”

Don’t become a target for one of these avoidable citations! Join us on March 29 for an in-depth webinar presented by Meaghan Boyd, a seasoned environmental litigation partner at Alston & Bird, as she discusses best practices for hazardous materials transportation.

You’ll learn:

  • How to identify hazardous materials ahead of transport
  • What type of training is required for people who offer transport of hazardous materials
  • How to determine appropriate packaging, marking and labeling when transporting a hazardous material
  • Penalties for not properly labeling or shipping a “hazardous material”
  • How to apply for DOT special permits
  • “Hot topics” in hazmat transportation, including lithium batteries, that could lead to compliance risks

Save my seat.

Source: BLR

“New TSCA Law Starts NOW!”

tsca_carousel

“For the first time in 20 years, we are updating a national environmental statute,” said President Obama before signing the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act on Wednesday. The president noted that the updated law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which took effect in 1976 “didn’t quite work the way it should have in practice.” That was a vast understatement, particularly in regard to the regulation of existing chemicals. The president pointed out that of the 62,000 chemicals in the marketplace in 1976, only 5 have been banned.

“Five,” said the president. “And only a tiny percentage have even been reviewed for health and safety. The system was so complex, it was so burdensome that our country hasn’t even been able to uphold a ban on asbestos—a known carcinogen that kills as many as 10,000 Americans every year.”

The president added that the new law will do away with an outdated bureaucratic formula to evaluate safety and, instead, focus solely on the risks to public health.

Industry Pushed Hard

The law passed both chambers of Congress with overwhelming, but not unanimous, support. Pockets of resistance remain, particularly regarding the law’s provision allowing federal preemption of state action on chemicals the EPA is reviewing. Nonetheless, the law made it to the president’s desk despite today’s extremely partisan climate in Washington. The president noted that passage of the legislation revived the bipartisan tradition of the early 1970s when Democrats and Republicans came together to pass “those pillars of legislation to protect our air, and our water, and our wildlife.”

The president specifically thanked the American Chemistry Council and S.C. Johnson, both of which “pushed hard for this law,” noting also that the law “gives them the certainty they need to keep out-innovating and out-competing companies from other parts of the world.”

In its statement of support following congressional approval, S.C. Johnson spoke favorably of EPA’s new authority to systematically prioritize all chemicals currently in commerce for safety evaluations.

What’s Next?

The law took effect with the president’s signature.  The major deadlines in the law apply to the EPA. As the EPA sees it, the most immediate effect is on the new chemicals review process. The Agency is now required to make an affirmative determination on a new chemical or significant new use of an existing chemical before manufacturing can commence. For companies that submitted premanufacture notices (PMNs) before enactment, which are currently undergoing review, the new law effectively resets the 90-day review period.

EPA’s other deadlines include the following:

  • Within 180 days, the Agency must publish an initial list of at least 10 high-priority chemicals and 10 low-priority chemicals. Within 3.5 years, the EPA must have 20 ongoing risk evaluations.
  • The EPA must publish an annual goal for the number of chemicals to be subject to the prioritization screening process. The Agency must also keep current and publish a list of chemicals (1) that are being considered in the prioritization process, (2) for which prioritization decisions have been postponed, and (3) that are designed as high- or low-priority chemicals.
  • When unreasonable risks are identified, the EPA must take final risk management action within 2 years or 4 years if an extension is needed.
  • Within 2 years, the EPA must develop any policies, procedures, and guidance necessary to carry out the bill’s requirements with respect to (1) requesting safety data from manufacturers or processors, (2) prioritizing existing chemicals for evaluation of their risks, (3) reviewing new chemicals or significant new uses of existing chemicals, and (4) conducting safety assessments and safety determinations on whether a chemical meets the safety standard. Those policies, procedures, and guidances must be reviewed every 5 years and revised as necessary to reflect new scientific developments or understandings.
  • Within 9 months, the EPA must publish a list of those chemical substances it has a reasonable basis to conclude are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT). Within 2 years after enactment, the EPA must designate as a chemical of concern each chemical substance on the PBT list. Not later than 2 years after this designation, the Agency must promulgate a rule with respect to the chemical substance to reduce likely exposure to the extent practicable.
  • Any confidential business information (CBI) claims to protect the specific identities of existing, active chemicals on the list from disclosure would need to be reaffirmed and substantiated. The EPA must maintain both a confidential and nonconfidential portion of its chemical inventory. Within 5 years of compiling that list of active chemicals, the EPA must establish a plan to review all CBI claims.
Funding

Also, the law provides a means for the Agency to collect the money it will need to do all of the above and more. Specifically, the statute allows the Agency to collect up to $25 million a year in user fees from chemical manufacturers and processors in addition to supplements approved by Congress.

The new TSCA law is here.

Source: BLR

“RMP Changes Are Almost Here, Stay A Step Ahead”

RMP-update_TF-post

By Timothy P Fagan, Senior Legal Editor

It has been 3 years since the ammonium nitrate explosion in West, Texas, killed 15 people, injured hundreds, and caused widespread damage.  Just a few months after that event, President Obama’s Executive Order (EO) 13650 set into motion actions by numerous government agencies designed to enhance the safety and security of chemical facilities and reduce the risks that hazardous chemicals pose to owners and operators, workers, and communities.

In addition to enhancing cooperation and information sharing among federal agencies and state and local authorities, the activities stemming from EO 13650 included modernizing key regulations, such as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Risk Management Program (RMP) and OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) Program.  To that end, the EPA recently proposed amendments to RMP regulations under 40 CFR 68, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has made policy changes with respect to PSM that will impact how facilities comply with the RMP.

What changes are coming?

The changes to RMP regulations being proposed by the EPA impact the implementation of release prevention programs, the development of emergency response plans, and the sharing of information.

Release prevention programs.  The proposed changes to the accidental release prevention programs include:

  • Requiring all facilities with Program Level 2 or 3 processes to conduct root cause analyses as part of any incident investigation of a catastrophic release or a “near miss.” Identifying the root cause rather than the immediate cause will be more beneficial in preventing similar accidents in the future.
  • Requiring all facilities with Program Level 2 or 3 processes to hire an independent third party to perform a compliance audit after the facility has a reportable release.  Currently, such audits are self-audits, so requiring a third party increases the objectivity of the audit.
  • Requiring facilities in the paper manufacturing, petroleum and coal products manufacturing, and chemical manufacturing sectors with Program 3 processes to conduct a safer technology and alternatives analysis (STAA) as part of the process hazard analysis that must be updated every 5 years.  The facilities must then evaluate the feasibility of any inherently safer technology (IST) identified in the STAA.   The implementation of IST potentially reduces the risk of accidental releases within these industries, which the EPA has identified as having a disproportionate share of reportable releases.

Emergency response plans.  The proposed changes to emergency response plans include:

  • Requiring all facilities with Program Level 2 or 3 processes to coordinate with the local emergency response agencies at least once a year to ensure that resources and capabilities are in place to respond to an accidental release and to ensure that emergency contact information is up to date.  Effective coordination and communication between facilities and emergency responders can reduce the severity of accidental chemical releases.
  • Requiring all facilities with Program Level 2 or 3 processes that have developed their own emergency response plan to conduct a full field exercise at least once every 5 years and one tabletop exercise annually in the other years.   In addition, such facilities that have a reportable accident would be required to conduct a full field exercise within 1 year of the accident.  Such exercises will help ensure that all emergency response personnel understand their roles and responsibilities and be better prepared in the event of a real accident.

Access to information.  The proposed changes to accessing RMP information include:

  • Requiring RMP facilities to provide certain basic information to the public through easily accessible means such as a facility website.  If no website exists, the owner or operator may provide the information at public libraries or government offices or use other means appropriate for particular locations and facilities.
  • Requiring RMP facilities to hold a public meeting after an RMP reportable accident.
  • Requiring certain facilities to provide, on request, local emergency response agencies with summaries of audits, emergency response exercises, investigation reports, and implemented ISTs.
The surprising omission

After the issuance of EO 13650, there was significant speculation that the modernization of RMP regulations would involve additions to the listed chemicals regulated under 40 CFR 68 and a reevaluation of the thresholds at which chemicals became subject to the RMP.  However, the EPA opted not to regulate any additional chemicals under the RMP, nor did the agency change any of the thresholds as part of the recently released proposed regulations.

OSHA’s impact on RMP

Any RMP process that is subject to OSHA’s PSM must comply with Program Level 3 requirements, the most stringent requirements.  Last year OSHA revised its interpretation of the PSM standard’s retail facility exemption, which will result in thousands of facilities no longer being exempt from PSM.  Most of these facilities are already subject to the RMP under Program Level 2, but the change in the exemption interpretation will result in these facilities becoming Program Level 3 facilities.  OSHA will begin enforcing the new exemption interpretation on September 30, 2016, and the EPA will require risk management plan updates within the following 6 months.

What happens next?

For several years there has been speculation about what changes would be made to RMP regulations and how facilities would be impacted.  Now the proposed regulations are here, and facilities must begin the evaluation process.  Facilities must evaluate the proposed regulations and provide comments to the EPA, if necessary, and facilities must evaluate their own programs, procedures, and plans to determine what changes must be implemented to ensure continued compliance with a changing RMP.

%d bloggers like this: