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“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

 

 

 

 

 

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