I applaud the issuance of the Executive Order entitled, “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security.” Increased coordination, communication, and data collection amongst federal, state, tribal, and local agencies should result in action and assist community members and emergency responders in helping to prevent and respond to chemical incidents.
Incidents the CSB has been investigating, such as the recent tragic explosion and fire in West, Texas, have revealed serious gaps in the prevention of accidents and in response preparations for major chemical releases by companies and government authorities, leaving Americans vulnerable.
The West accident showed a particularly glaring need for comprehensive regulation of reactive chemical hazards and in particular ammonium nitrate. The destruction I personally saw there – the obliteration of homes, schools, and businesses by an ammonium nitrate explosion – was almost beyond imagination. The loss of life was horrible. It is my hope that this Executive Order will spur development of regulation and enforcement for the safe handling of ammonium nitrate and other gaps in the coverage of reactive hazards that the CSB has previously identified to help prevent future incidents.
I am encouraged that the Executive Order calls for the revision and strengthening of EPA’s Risk Management Program and OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard. The CSB has long urged such improvements, specifically that reactive hazards - such as ammonium nitrate – be more comprehensively regulated under RMP and PSM.
The CSB looks forward to a discussion of the Memoranda of Understanding with various agencies. We trust that enhanced MOU’s would address site access for all, preservation of evidence for all, and sharing of information and testing results among all agencies, while protecting sensitive witness information so that all stakeholders and the public can learn what happened and work to prevent major incidents in the future.