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Safety

Chemical makers ask U.S. Congress to revoke industrial safety rule

ACC, SOCMA among groups seeking overturn of EPA regulation

by Jeff Johnson, special to C&EN
January 31, 2017

Credit: 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.

Twenty-one business groups—including several chemical industry organizations—are urging the U.S. Congress to negate a recent Environmental Protection Agency regulation on chemical safety.

In a letter to leaders of the House of Representatives and Senate, the groups—which include the American Chemistry Council and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates—urged Congress to disapprove of the regulation. That 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 nullify it.

The business organizations say the regulation is unnecessary and burdensome and provides unclear safety benefits. The letter argues the regulation “may actually increase security risks given the rule’s expanded public information disclosure requirements.”

EPA made the changes in response to a 2013 executive order from then-President Barack Obama. That directive came in the wake of a warehouse explosion involving ammonium nitrate that killed 15 people in West, Texas. The EPA regulation was the sole regulatory response to the executive order.

The new regulation is aimed at encouraging better communication among emergency responders and requiring independent third-party accident audits and company consideration of inherently safer manufacturing methods.

If Congress blocks a 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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