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Congress considers revoking industrial chemical safety rule

Chemical manufacturers asked lawmakers to rescind EPA regulation

by Jeff Johnson
February 2, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 6

Photo from the air shows leveled building in West, Texas, after the 2013 explosion and fire.
Credit: Mark Wingard/CSB
Chemical manufacturers are asking Congress to nullify an EPA safety regulation issued in response to the 2013 explosion and fatal fire at a West, Texas, warehouse.

Congress is considering legislation that would nullify a recent regulation on industrial chemical safety.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) introduced the legislation, H.J. Res.59, on Feb. 2 at the urging of 21 business groups, including several chemical industry organizations. In a recent letter to Congress, the groups—which include the American Chemistry Council and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates—say Congress should block the regulation. The rule modifies EPA’s 25-year-old risk management plan program to reduce chemical plant accidents and protect communities, workers, and emergency responders.

The Obama Administration finalized the rule in late December. Under the Congressional Review Act, lawmakers have 60 legislative days to review the regulation and can vote to overturn it.

Echoing the chemical industry groups’ letter, Mullin says the regulation is unnecessary and burdensome and may make businesses less safe. EPA made the changes in response to a 2013 executive order from then-president Barack Obama. That directive ordered a broad multiagency safety review and came in the wake of a warehouse explosion involving ammonium nitrate that killed 15 people in West, Texas. The EPA regulation was the only regulatory response to emerge from the executive order.

The new regulation aims to encourage better communication among emergency responders and requires independent third-party accident audits and company consideration of inherently safer manufacturing methods.

If Congress blocks the regulation, the executive branch can’t reissue it in the same form or in any other variation that is substantially the same. Congress has successfully used the 1996 Congressional Review Act against a regulation only once.



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