Tuesday, June 24, 2008

HS Subcommittee Looks at Chemical Incident

Chairman Thompson announced today in an email that the Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection Subcommittee would be holding a hearing on a recent (06-11-08) chemical incident at the Goodyear Plant in Houston, TX. The hearing will be tomorrow at 2 p.m. EST. I have seen nothing in the news reports that would indicate a homeland security connection with this incident where one employee was killed in an apparent process accident.

I am currently on the road and do not have access to my incident news file, but as I remember the details there was an explosion in the condenser on vessel used in some sort of high temperature distillation process. The explosion released some quantity of ammonia that was being used as the coolant fluid in the condenser. Because of the presence of ammonia fumes in the area, there was only a limited initial search of the area that did not find the worker that was later found dead under some debris. There were some questions raised about whether a more complete, earlier search would have found her alive.

This incident did not make the short list of chemical incidents that is investigated by the Chemical Safety Board, but that may be due more to the limited manpower that safety organization has than the severity of the incident. OSHA is almost certainly investigating since a death resulted from the incident.

The list of witnesses is a very interesting collection of interest groups and government agencies as well as the widower of the veteran worker that was killed in the incident. The witness list includes:

  • Robert D. Jamison, Under Secretary National Protection & Programs, DHS
  • Norman J. Rabkin, Managing Director for Homeland Security and Justice, GAO
  • James Jay Carafano, Assistant Director, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Senior Research Fellow, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, Heritage Foundation
  • Raymond McInnis, former employee of the Goodyear Plant in Houston and widower of Gloria McInnis, who was killed at the plant on June 11
  • John S. Morawetz, Director, International Chemical Workers Union Center for Worker Health and Safety Education
  • John P. Paczkowski, Director, Emergency Management and Security, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

This might be an interesting hearing.

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