Government Shutdown Impacts the Chemical Industry
Growing concerns among chemical storage and pesticide storage are delayed by the government shutdown. Thursday, October 31, was supposed to mark the deadline for federal agencies to make a decision on how to properly store dangerous chemicals, including ammonium nitrate – the hazardous chemical which caused the West Texas blast.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials have set a new date for an updated report, regarding proper storage requirements for dangerous chemicals, by the end of November.
Following President Obama’s executive order this summer, critics state that regulatory agencies failed to inspect or monitor the West Fertilizer Co. appropriately.
Some agencies, including OSHA, had not inspected the plant since the 1980’s, which could have limited oversight to improper storage regulations. Since OSHA did not inspect the plant for decades, hazard violations were not recorded, including the storage of flammable seed next to fertilizers.
Tommy Muska, Mayor of West, Texas, in McLennan County, stated “regardless of the delay, hopefully federal agencies will make reforms that will prevent chemical disasters like the one that devastated West, Texas. If better government oversight and information sharing opens up some eyes so this doesn’t happen in another city, you could say some good came out of this tragedy”.
Executive Order Requirements
The executive order has asked federal agencies to create a plan for sharing chemical data and information among each other for separate agencies to gain as much information as possible. The executive order also requires binding chemical storage requirements for the hazardous chemical ammonium nitrate. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) will also have access to information from regulatory and investigative agencies when the CSB does investigations.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s investigation on the West disaster has been delayed by the government shutdown, but has continued since the shutdown has alleviated.
The president has identified key measures that need to be taken in order to avoid hazardous situations and dangerous chemical storage practices.