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A federal court has delayed a federal requirement that facilities storing 4,536 kg or more of anhydrous ammonia meet the same safety standards as chemical manufacturers. OSHA imposed the requirements in the wake of a 2013 explosion of another fertilizer, ammonium nitrate, at a facility in West, Texas, that killed 15 people and leveled part of the town. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit determined that OSHA illegally imposed the extensive new safety requirements on retail dealers of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer without giving them a chance to comment formally. In its Sept. 23 decision, the court found that OSHA violated federal procedure when the agency used a guidance memo to narrow exemptions to its process safety management standard for hazardous chemicals. OSHA’s move would require smaller vendors to buy new storage tanks. For now, retailers, who filed the suit, will remain exempt from process safety management requirements—at least until OSHA issues a final rule, which could take several years.
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