The Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group was selected to review chemical storage following the April, 2013, chemical facility explosion in West, Texas. The preliminary report, released last week, includes potentially mandatory safety changes that could avert a similar disaster.
The panel is comprised of representatives from the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture, Justice, Labor, Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Per the executive order, the review of policies and standards affecting chemical facilities is just one of several sections to evaluate federal and state response coordination, labor issues and best practices surrounding chemical handling.
The key questions identified by the working group on section six of the EO – policy, regulation, and standards modernization – resulted from a review of existing programs, investigation of major incidents, review of recommendations from the safety and security communities, and feedback from the EO listening sessions, the preliminary report said.
Key topics the paper addresses include: options for handling and storing ammonium nitrate, options for expanding EPA's risk management and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's process safety management standards; options for adding chemicals to the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards and Chemicals of Interest lists; and revisions of OSHA's PSM retail exemption.
The group has opened a 90-day comment period on the above options, which will then result in a more concrete plan to implement chemical handling changes.
For farmers, the changes could result in stricter ammonium nitrate reporting requirements.
According to a statement from the American Chemistry Council, the group is working to review the entire preliminary proposal and submit comments.
ACC said it is specifically focused on provisions that would improve the interaction of existing regulatory programs, leverage industry programs and identify outlier facilities.
However, there are issues with the proposal, ACC says. "We are concerned that the Working Group is looking at possibly pursuing options that will further complicate an overly complex regulatory system by creating requirements for assessing safer alternatives, as well as considering a regulatory model that would exceed the authority the agencies have today instead of focusing on how to improve current programs," the group said.
Several listening sessions on the Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security executive order are scheduled for January in Los Angeles, Houston and Washington, D.C.