By James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security spoke today at the Air and Waste Management Association’s Annual Conference, on their  collaboration on chemical facility safety and security.

The conference session speakers included Mathy Stanislaus, EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, James Wulff, OSHA Region 9’s Assistant Regional Administrator, Enforcement Programs, and Todd Klessman, DHS’s Senior Policy Advisor for the Infrastructure Security Compliance Division.

We had blogged earlier this week about the EPA, OSHA, and DHS first joint Report for the President, “Actions to Improve Chemical Facility Safety and Security – A Shared Commitment.” June 6, 2014. The Report issued after recent catastrophic chemical facility incidents in the United States, which had, in August 2013, prompted President Obama to issue Executive Order 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security. The EO was intended to enhance the safety and security of chemical facilities and reduce risks associated with hazardous chemicals to owners and operators, workers, and their neighboring communities.

The EO established a “Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group” to oversee the effort, which is tri-chaired by the EPA, DOL, and DHS, and included leadership and subject matter experts from many other federal departments and agencies. This their first Report summarized the Working Group’s progress, focusing on actions to date, findings and lessons learned, challenges, and priority next steps.

In his presentation Stanislaus reiterated and emphasized that industry must play a “critical role” in re-invigorating and participating in the Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC). The Working Group found the LEPCs vary considerably across the country, and in some areas don’t really even exist. When asked what facilities are to do when the LEPC doesn’t exist in their community, Stanislaus responded that the plant management have to step-in and fill that role — on an ongoing basis. It is a real problem. There is a need for plant management to “sit down with local government.”

Wulff noted that OSHA is taking steps to “modernize” its rules, citing to OSHA’s Request for Information on the Agency’s process safety management standard and other related chemical standards to determine, among other things, “whether these standards can, and should, be expanded to address additional regulated substances and types of hazards.” For instance, OSHA is considering a proposed rule for a process safety management standard for ammonium nitrate.

Klessman indicated that the sharing of information databases, like the DHS database of top screens, between the agencies, LEPCs, and first responders is critical and would facilitate getting needed, quality information to those that need it.