By Anthony Adragna
Sept. 12 --The Environmental
Protection Agency will consider issuing guidance or regulations on the
installation of inherently safer technologies at chemical facilities, according
to a senior official.
Mathy Stanislaus, the EPA assistant administrator
for solid waste and emergency response, told the National Environmental Justice
Advisory Council the agency will consider such measures as part of a broad
discussion on how to improve chemical security.
“I want to put all the
issues on the table,” Stanislaus said Sept. 12 at a meeting in Atlanta. “Some
view that there's a silver bullet, and I don't think there is. I would like to
build a foundation of the issues and then see what actions can be taken on
He said the explosion in April of ammonia nitrate at a fertilizer
retailer in West, Texas, brought safety issues with the chemical industry into
Following the explosion, President Barack Obama signed Executive Order No. 13,650 in August directing federal
agencies to streamline information sharing, modernize regulations and establish
a federal working group on chemical security (37 CRR 913, 8/5/13).
Chemical groups previously told Bloomberg BNA they hope federal agencies will
work to improve the implementation and coordination of existing regulatory
programs, rather than imposing new ones (37 CRR 985, 8/26/13).
advocates, public interest groups and NEJAC have separately asked the EPA to
use its authority under the general duty clause of the Clean Air Act to mandate
the installation of inherently safer technologies at chemical facilities.
Inherently safer technologies are generally described as reducing the risks
of chemical manufacturing and processing by simplifying process design,
replacing hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives, limiting hazardous
conditions and minimizing the amounts of hazardous materials used and
Stanislaus, who will lead the federal group charged with
implementing Obama's executive order, along with counterparts at the Department
of Homeland Security and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration,
said the group's recommendations won't address chemical safety during
The assistant administrator said the group will seek to
enhance access to facility and chemical storage information among first
responders and said it remains “open” to various regulatory options to enhance
Stanislaus said the working group will release documents
as it develops its recommendations and said it plans to hold a series of public
meetings beginning in late October.
The group's ultimate goal will be to
develop a “standard operating procedure” so that federal agencies are aligned
in their regulation of chemical facilities.
The EPA's solid waste office also plans to issue its climate
change adaptation plan “in a week or so,” Stanislaus said.
said superfund sites and facilities covered under the Resource Conservation and
Recovery Act are facing storms with “increased severity” and in locations where
severe weather wasn't previously seen.
He pointed to Hurricane Sandy,
noting that the design and risk analysis for remediation solutions at many RCRA
sites in the region didn't account for hurricane-level storms or storm
Most of the RCRA facilities affected by Sandy fared well, but
the EPA continues to assess the sites, Stanislaus said. He said the agency also
will look at investments in critical infrastructure, notably wastewater and
drinking water facilities.
In a letter
obtained by Bloomberg BNA Sept. 11, Stanislaus outlined the agency's interpreted
authority on the regulation of chemical safety.
The letter said the
agency doesn't plan to issue a regulation defining the scope of the general
duty clause because doing so would be “contrary to the Congressional intent” of
dated Aug. 1, said the agency does not have any plans to use the general duty
clause to regulate chemical plant security, but it also said the agency
believes it has the authority to require chemical facilities to be designed and
operated in a manner to prevent chemical accidents.
The letter was
addressed to Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who had questioned how the EPA viewed
its regulatory role in chemical safety following the explosion in West, Texas
(37 CRR 650, 6/3/13).
Michael Kennedy, public policy counsel for the
Agricultural Retailers Association, told Bloomberg BNA his organization
anticipated discussion of inherently safer technologies but argued that other
improvements to chemical safety should take precedence.
discussions to reduce safety risks and security risks in the production and
storage of potentially harmful chemicals, including through the use of safer
alternatives, adoption of best practices and public-private partnerships,”
Kennedy said. “However, EPA needs to first improve coordination among the
federal government and local first responders and take into account the
capabilities, limitations and needs of the first responder community.”
Rick Hind, legislative director for
Greenpeace, said he was pleased the EPA will consider inherently safer
technologies, as a group of organizations had petitioned the agency to do in
“If the EPA follows the law, it would be impossible not to
consider the most foolproof way to prevent a disaster,” he said.
Pompeo's office was not available for comment on EPA's planned consideration
of regulations and guidance concerning inherently safer technologies. The
American Chemistry Council also did not respond to a request for comment.
To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
contact the editor responsible for this story: John Sullivan at email@example.com
EPA's letter to Pompeo
is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=rlen-9bfmrz.