EPA and Chemical Safety

Two recent mentions of the role of EPA, no doubt in connection with the recent West Texas explosion.

(1) To Prevent Chemical Disasters, Empower the E.P.A.

The explosion this month at a fertilizer plant in West, Tex., should be another wake-up call to lawmakers. Rep. George Miller, the chairman of the House committee on the workforce, is calling for scrutiny of the 6,000 fertilizer plants similar to the one that exploded. The push for safer conditions should not end there.Disasters from chemical hazards can be avoided by reducing the volume of dangerous chemical used, switching to less dangerous chemicals and enforcing high-quality training. Congress should pass chemical safety legislation to make those steps happen.

Many agencies currently have some responsibility for hazardous chemical safety, but Congress should make clear that the Environmental Protection Agency is in charge. It is the nation’s leading environmental enforcer, with the most trained staff and expertise to address chemical safety.In fact, the E.P.A. already has some power to protect public health, under part of the Clean Air Act called the general duty clause.

The agency has successfully used it in enforcement cases, including against a fertilizer plant in Port Neal, Iowa, where a 1994 explosion of ammonium nitrate killed four workers and injured 18. The E.P.A. issued an enforcement alert in 1998 on the chemical safety hazards of ammonium nitrate, including six standards and practices intended to prevent accidental explosions. If Congress gave the agency more explicit powers, it could enforce these and other standards to prevent future disasters.

(2) New GAO report, titled:  EPA Has Increased Efforts to Assess and Control Chemicals but Could Strengthen Its Approach

UPDATE:  On May 1, this news clipping mentions a CRS memo on the topic of chemical plant safety, but no where does it mention how to obtain a copy.

Thanks to Bill Cumming for obtaining a copy of the memo, which is here: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/557127-crs-rmp-update-11-16-12.html

1 thought on “EPA and Chemical Safety

  1. What a spectacularly bad idea! The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board already has this mandate, and is doing a very good job with limited resources. The EPA is highly politicized and really does not have the expertise in accident investigations.

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