US chemical safety board set to require new reporting

26 June 2009 17:49  [Source: ICIS news]

US CSB to issue new reporting rule for chemical accidentsWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) said on Friday it will seek stakeholder input on how the board should establish a new reporting requirement - probably by early 2010 - for serious chemical accidents.

The board has issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR), calling for public comment on the requirement by 4 August.

The board has been under pressure to establish a chemical accident reporting regulation since a 2004 report by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and a 2008 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the agency had an obligation to do so under its congressional charter.

The more recent GAO study found, among other things, that “CSB has not fully responded to recommendations to publish a data-reporting regulation and improve the quality of its accident data”.

The GAO also noted that the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments that established the CSB as an independent federal agency included “a statutory requirement to publish a regulation for receiving information from facilities on their chemical accidents”.

In response last year to the GAO criticism, the board said that “a reporting regulation is not needed for the narrow purpose of notifying the CSB of major accidents warranting the deployment of investigators”. 

“We can and do easily learn what we need to know simply from monitoring the media” and reports from other federal agencies, the CSB said.

Nonetheless, the board told GAO that it would invite comment from the chemical industry, environmental and safety sector stakeholders on how CSB should set up the reporting requirement.

Although initially expected in September last year, that notice was formally issued through the Federal Register on Thursday.

The notice specifies that its charter statute, the CAA, requires that the board set regulations for the reporting of incidents that fall under the agency’s investigative authority over “any accidental release resulting in a fatality, serious injury or substantial property damages”.

That suggests that the reporting requirement could be limited to only serious incidents, rather than including every single unintended emission that might occur at a facility.

CSB spokesman Dan Horowitz said that whether the reporting rule would be so narrowly focused remains to be seen and what stakeholders have to say about how the statutory requirement should be listened to.

“We are soliciting ideas on how this should be done, and we are encouraging everyone to comment,” he said.

“The board will conduct a thorough analysis of all the comments and then as soon as possible develop a path forward,” he said.

Horowitz could not say how long it might take for the board to formulate a final rule. 

However, in the usual course of federal rulemaking, a few months after the initial comment period ends on 4 August the board is expected to issue a formal “proposed rule”, triggering another round of public comments. A final rule would then be issued, perhaps before the middle of next year.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Joe Kamalick
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