“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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“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.

 

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

CSB – West Fertilizer and Williams Olefins Explosions Testimony

CSB

CLICK HERE to view the written statement
CLICK HERE to view the CSB’s preliminary findings
BEGIN TESTIMONY
Chairman Boxer, Senator Vitter, and distinguished Committee members – thank you for inviting me today.  I am CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso.
The two explosions we are discussing today – West Fertilizer and Williams Olefins – are tragedies of the kind that should be prevented.
The destruction I personally saw in West – the obliteration of homes, schools, and businesses by an ammonium nitrate explosion – was almost beyond imagination.  The loss of life was horrible.
The CSB has determined that ammonium nitrate fertilizer storage falls under a patchwork of U.S. safety standards and guidance – a patchwork that has many large holes.
These holes include: the use of combustible wooden buildings and wooden storage bins, sprinklers generally not required, and no federal, state, or local rules restricting the storage of large amounts of ammonium nitrate near homes, schools and hospitals.
Voluntary fire codes have some useful provisions for ammonium nitrate.  But Texas and most of its counties have no fire code.  So at West, these fire code provisions were strictly voluntary, and West Fertilizer had not volunteered.  Our investigators learned that combustible seeds were stored near the ammonium nitrate, not separated by any fire-resistant partition.
OSHA has some similar provisions for ammonium nitrate fertilizer in its Explosives standard, 1910.109.  However, OSHA has not focused extensively on ammonium nitrate storage and hadn’t inspected West since 1985.
Other nations have gone much further than the U.S. on ammonium nitrate safety.  The UK recommends dedicated, noncombustible storage buildings and noncombustible bins.  The U.S. manufacturer, CF Industries, recommends the same and urges sprinklers as well.
But 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.
Preventing the risk of fire essentially eliminates the potential for an explosion like we saw in West, by removing one of the preconditions for detonation.
Facilities like West fall outside existing federal process safety standards, which were developed in the 1990’s and are list-based.
Ammonium nitrate would likely have been included, if the EPA had adopted our 2002 recommendation to cover reactive chemicals under its Risk Management Program.
But the modestly sized RMP program is no panacea; it already covers large refineries and petrochemical sites – including Williams Olefins – and yet we still see serious accidents.
The Williams plant has over a hundred workers, producing ethylene and propylene.
On June 13, there was a catastrophic failure involving a heat exchanger and associated piping which broke loose from a distillation tower.   The ensuing explosion led to the deaths of two employees.  We join in mourning their loss.
It is too soon in our investigation to tell why the equipment failure occurred.
The bigger picture in process safety is that EPA and OSHA resources are under duress.  Regulations need to be modernized – but more inspection and prevention are needed as well.
Meantime, we are finding encouraging alternatives to the current situation:
Following the Chevron refinery fire last year, and acting upon CSB recommendations, California is poised to triple the number of dedicated process safety inspectors … funded by industry fees.
Another promising approach is the ‘safety case’– successfully used in other nations, which insurers say have much lower petrochemical accident rates than we do.
Companies identify and commit to follow the best safety standards from around the world, subject to approval and oversight by a competent, well-funded regulator.  Many experts believe this is the best safety regime for complex, technological industries, rather than the U.S. system which calls upon a prescriptive and often outdated rule book.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today.
END TESTIMONY

CSB Releases New Video Footage Documenting Extent of Community Damage from Explosion in West, Texas‏

Washington, DC – Today the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a new three-minute compilation of video footage showing the extensive community damage from the ammonium nitrate fertilizer explosion on April 17 in West, Texas.  The explosion led to at least 14 deaths and injured around 200 others.  The narrated video collected by CSB investigators at the site illustrates the extent of destruction to schools, residences, and other nearby facilities such as the West Haven Rest nursing home and a nearby apartment block and playground.  The video can be viewed on the CSB’s Facebook page for the West accident investigation.

For general information about the CSB, visit CSB.gov.

CSB

 

 

 

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