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Chemical Facility Safety and Security Under Scrutiny with Presidential Executive Order

On August 1, 2013, President Obama issued an Executive Order – Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security – aimed at improving safety and security at facilities where chemicals are manufactured, stored, distributed, and used.

The Executive Order establishes a Chemical Facility Safety Working Group to be co-chaired by EPA, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Homeland Security with designated representatives from the Department of Justice, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Transportation.

According to the Executive Order, objectives include improving operational coordination with state, local, and tribal partners, as well as improved federal coordination, and enhanced information collection and sharing.  Some specific provisions of the Executive Order include:

  • An assessment on the feasibility of sharing Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) data with SERCs, TEPCs, and LEPCs on a categorical basis.
  • Identification of a list of chemicals, including poisons and reactive substances, that should be considered for addition to the CFATS Chemicals of Interest list.
  • Development of a list of potential regulatory and legislative proposals to improve the safe and secure storage, handling, and sale of ammonium nitrate and identify ways in which ammonium nitrate safety and security can be enhanced under existing authorities.
  • Review of the chemical hazards covered by the Risk Management Program (RMP) and the Process Safety Management Standard (PSM) and determine if the RMP or PSM can and should be expanded to address additional regulated substances and types of hazards.
  • Development of a plan, including a timeline and resource requirements, to expand, implement, and enforce the RMP and PSM in a manner that addresses the additional regulated substances and types of hazards.
  • Identification of any changes that need to be made in the retail and commercial grade exemptions in the PSM Standard; and identification of issues related to modernization of the PSM Standard and related standards necessary to meet the goal of preventing major chemical accidents.

The Executive Order’s only specific reference to the role of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board in implementing the Order is that “Within 90 days of the date of this order, the Working Group shall consult with the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) and determine what, if any, changes are required to existing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) and processes between EPA and CSB, ATF and CSB, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and CSB for timely and full disclosure of information. To the extent appropriate, the Working Group may develop a single model MOU with CSB in lieu of existing agreements.”