Tuesday, October 20, 2009

IST and TIC Manufacturers

As could be expected, Greenpeace was less than happy to hear that provisions of the HR 2868 markup in the Energy and Environment Subcommittee last week would limit the number of facilities covered by the IST mandate provisions to only 107 high-risk chemical facilities. While it is not clear to me that the provisions will actually be effective in reducing the number of facilities covered, the 107 facilities potentially remaining will be those which house significant amounts of chemicals that Greenpeace and their fellow environmental and labor groups have been fighting the hardest against; the toxic chemicals that are most likely to produce disastrous affects on large urban populations. I hope that Greenpeace, et al, realize that almost 15% of the facilities on the list will get an automatic bye on the IST mandate. These are the facilities that produce the toxic inhalation hazard (TIH) chemicals. Since even the base legislation (which Greenpeace actively promoted) provided an economic viability exclusion, the IST evaluation for facilities that produce and sell TIH chemicals will be no more than a look at inventory control practices at the facility. There will be no need to look at alternate manufacturing or alternative chemicals at those facilities.
NOTE: The 15% figure is based on the assumed 107 facilities being covered under the new regulations and 16 manufacturers. The manufacturer data is taken from the CAP “Chemistry 101” pamphlet’s Appendix A and Appendix B.
Any distribution or repackaging facilities on the list of 107 should be able to justify a similar cursory review of inventory control practices. Again, since their business is based on the sale of these chemicals, any mandated reduction in the volume sold would have an adverse affect on their business. Some might say that on-site production of these chemicals would reduce the volume of the TIH chemicals at the location, but distributors typically work on tight margins and would find the capital expenditure to add production capability very difficult to justify financially. The Worth of IST Where the IST language in this legislation will be most useful will be in the requirement for Tier 3 and Tier 4 facilities to conduct an IST evaluation. While the large chemical companies routinely review their safety and security programs to reduce their risks, smaller chemical companies and facilities typically continue to operate the way they always have. This operational inertia is not caused by malfeasance or an evil disregard for safety, but rather a limit of resources to conduct the necessary evaluations. Adding the requirement is going to force many of these smaller facilities to go to outside contractors to conduct reasonable IST assessments. In those situations where the assessments clearly indicate an economically viable method to reduce risk, most facilities will not require a federal mandate to execute the change.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your post regarding IST was fine until the section entitled "The Worth of IST." Your opinions suddenly take a detour here. First, you insinuate that facilities in Tiers 3 & 4 are a certain size (i.e., smaller than Tiers 1 & 2). In terms of how DHS determines high-risk, size does not matter. There is enough knowledge about covered facilities in Tiers 1 and 2 to know that i) some are, in fact, not large and ii) off-site consequences was not a primary factor for their placement (i.e., theft and diversion).

Your second error is how you paint with one brush large versus small companies' methods of assessing their safety and security programs to reduce their risk. Is Bayer a small company? Indeed, isn't the Bayer facility in West Virginia that recently experienced the MIC incident a large facility? What of the large refineries in the Gulf Coast that have recently been fined in the millions of dollars for safety violations after OSHA conducted its National Emphasis Program? Even if your excuse is true as to why companies "operate the way they always have" (i.e., limited resources), how do you explain away the serious violations found by OSHA at multi-national refineries or the accident at Bayer? Using your reasoning, can't one then assume, because they are large, that these companies have the necessary resources?

Your last paragraph also gives false comfort that IST will prevail once facilities are forced to do it. Why not be balanced and mention that many facilities, regardless of size, make IST decisions that are part of the initial pre-production process? The chemical that is ultimately chosen for production is chosen for a specific reason: feasibility for the end-product, in many cases. Some are also dictated by customers. Many are, in fact, already the safer alternative, even while they are hazardous.

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */