08 September 2009 22:47 [Source: ICIS news]
The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) provided stakeholder comments regarding its plans to issue formal regulations to ensure that the board is notified quickly of any serious chemicals-related explosion or other accident that may warrant an investigation by the CSB.
The board issued a formal notice of proposed rulemaking on 25 June and invited comment from industry and the general public.
CSB has been under pressure from Congress and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement an accident reporting requirement as stipulated by the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990.
The board is charged by Congress to investigate chemical sector accident resulting in any fatalities, serious injury or substantial property damage.
CSB has long maintained that it does not need a formal reporting process, saying that it receives adequate and timely notice of significant chemical accidents through the news media and other federal agencies.
However, in issuing its 25 June rulemaking proposal, the board acknowledged that it has a statutory obligation to implement a formal reporting procedure that would require notice to the CSB by companies or site operators as soon as a serious accident occurred.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) said that the board can fulfil its legal requirement by establishing formal reporting relationships with other federal agencies that already receive real-time accident notifications from the industry.
The council in particular cited the longstanding federal requirement for industry reports of accidents, spills or other releases of hazardous substances to the National Response Center (NRC), a 24-hour, nation-wide reporting operation that has been maintained by the US Coast Guard since 1974.
The NRC collects real-time reports from chemical firms and other companies required under a variety of federal environmental laws and regulations.
According to its website, the centre currently collects and relays accident information for and to numerous federal agencies - including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy (DOE), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
However, there apparently is no formal relationship between the NRC and the CSB by which the centre can collect accident information on behalf of the board and relay that real-time data to the CSB.
The council cautioned that if the CSB were to develop and implement a separate reporting structure and requirement, it could cause confusion and perhaps undermine existing industry and government programmes “to provide timely emergency management and response”.
The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) echoed that recommendation, saying in its comments to the board that “reporting beyond what is currently done would not necessarily improve the current process”.
Instead, the NPRA said, a new CSB reporting mandate “could in fact create confusion and diversion during a critical emergency response”.
The board is expected to issue a proposed reporting rule by the end of this year and, following another period of public comment, implement a final reporting mechanism in early 2010.
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