Obama orders formation of interagency chemical safety working group

US President Barack Obama issued an executive order on Aug. 1 forming a federal interagency chemical safety and security working group in response to recent accidents. The president’s action came as witnesses told a US House subcommittee that chemical firms and regulatory agencies already are trying to improve safety and security in the chemical workplace and surrounding communities.

Obama acknowledged in his order that the federal government already has developed and implemented numerous programs aimed at reducing the safety risks and security risks associated with hazardous chemicals. “However, additional measures can be taken by executive departments and agencies with regulatory authority to further improve chemical facility safety and security in coordination with owners and operators,” he said.

He ordered the formation of a chemical safety and security working group co-chaired by US Department of Homeland Security Sec. Janet A. Napolitano, Department of Labor Sec. Thomas E. Perez, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, or their immediate deputies. The working group will include leaders or top deputies from the US Departments of Justice, Agriculture, and Transportation, and consult with other federal agencies and departments. It will meet at least quarterly.

Obama’s order also identified the need to enhance federal regulatory coordination; improve communications with state, tribal, and local governments; enhance information collection and sharing; modernize policies, standards, and regulations, and identify best practices.

US Chemical Safety Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso applauded the president’s action. “Incidents CSB has been investigating, such as the recent tragic explosion and fire in West, Tex., 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,” he said on Aug. 1.

American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers officials were studying the executive order and had no immediate comment, a spokeswoman told OGJ.

Revived concerns

Chemical safety concerns were revived after a fertilizer plant explosion on Apr. 17 in the Texas town of West killed at least 14 people and injured more than 200 others. The Government Accountability Office reported in April that DHS’s Infrastructure Safety Compliance Division (ISCD) has assigned about 3,500 high-risk chemical plants to risk-based tiers since 2007. But its approach does not consider all consequences, threats, and vulnerabilities from a terrorist attack, Stephen L. Caldwell, GAO’s Homeland Security and Justice director, told the House Homeland Security Committee’s Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies Subcommittee.

ISCD has begun to review its security plan review process, but this could take years although the division is examining how it could accelerate the process, he said in his written testimony on Aug 1.

Federal regulation under DHS’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) has made significant progress in the last year, according to David Wulf, director of DHS’s Infrastructure Safety Compliance Division. “We feel strongly that our private sector partners are key to our efforts to enhance data sharing, increase cross-training, and identify areas for possible regulatory changes as well as identifying possible gaps in existing statutory authorities,” he said in his written statement.

“Since the West, Tex., tragedy, we have engaged with numerous members of industry and all have agreed that we must work together to prevent future incidents,” he continued. “Industry has offered to spread our message and do [its] part to promote safety and security at chemical facilities.”

The American Chemistry Council already has an aggressive safety and security improvement culture, but the facility in Texas was an “outlier site” which was not part of an industry association or program or a participant in local emergency planning committees, noted Timothy J. Scott, Dow Chemical Co.’s chief security officer, in his written statement.

“There are regulations in place at both the state and federal levels that require the submission of data relative to chemicals of interest and quantities on site that would have identified this facility as a potentially high-risk site,” Scott said. “Compliance and enforcement of these existing regulations is needed.” ACC and Dow have called for legislation to bring such sites into compliance, he said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

Shell cuts $15 billion in spending for 2015-17

01/30/2015 Royal Dutch Shell PLC has curtailed more than $15 billion in potential spending over the next 3 years, but is not “not overreacting to current low ...

Victoria extends drilling, fracing ban

01/30/2015 The new Victorian Labor government of premier Daniel Andrews has extended the coal seam gas (CSG) exploration and hydraulic fracturing ban in the s...

Chevron’s $35 billion capital budget down 13% from last year

01/30/2015 Chevron Corp. will allocate $35 billion in its capital and exploratory investment program for 2015, including $4 billion of planned expenditures by...

US Senate passes bill approving Keystone XL pipeline project

01/30/2015 The US Senate has passed a bill approving construction of the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline by a 62-36 vote after 3 weeks of debate. Nine...

Oxy cuts capital budget by a third

01/30/2015 In the midst of falling oil prices, Occidental Petroleum Corp., Houston, expects to reduce its total capital spending for 2015 to $5.8 billion from...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX natural gas prices drop after storage report

01/30/2015 US natural gas closed at its lowest price in more than 2 years on the New York market Jan. 29 following the government’s weekly gas storage report,...

Pennsylvania governor reinstates state forest drilling moratorium

01/29/2015 Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed an executive order fully reinstating a 2010 moratorium on new oil and gas leases in state forests and parks. ...

PwC: Low oil prices might drive surge in restructuring in 2015

01/29/2015 Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the oil and gas industry hit 10-year highs in terms of deal value and volume in 2014, according to a report f...

DOE could meet 45-day LNG export decision deadline, Senate panel told

01/29/2015 The US Department of Energy would have no trouble meeting a 45-day deadline to reach a national interest determination for proposed LNG export faci...
White Papers

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...
Available Webcasts


The Alternative Fuel Movement: Four Need-to-Know Excise Tax Complexities

When Thu, Jun 4, 2015

Discussion on how to approach, and ultimately embrace, the alternative fuel market by pulling back the veil on excise tax complexities. Taxes may be an aggravating part of daily operations, but their accuracy is crucial in your path towards business success.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 

register:WEBCAST


Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected