Monday, February 1, 2010

Fertilizer and IST

I ran across an article on that pointed out a basic misunderstanding of the inherently safer technology (IST) requirements of HR 2868. The article quotes an unnamed spokeswoman of the Fertilizer Institute as saying that “forcing makers of anhydrous ammonia for fertilizer to switch products would drive up costs and hurt quality”.

First off, the provisions of HR 2868 would not require any manufacturer of any chemical listed in Appendix A to 6 CFR part 27 (DHS chemicals of interest - COI) to stop manufacturing those chemicals. Since those products are what the manufacturer sells, it would not be economically feasible to stop them from selling those products; it would put them out of business.

Manufacturers of certain COI (mostly TIH chemicals) might have to be concerned that some of their customers might be required to switch to less hazardous chemicals because of the IST provisions of HR 2868 if the legislation were adopted. This concern would not be felt by fertilizer manufacturers.

The end users (farmers) of these dangerous chemicals (anhydrous ammonia and perhaps ammonium nitrate) would not be Tier 1 or Tier 2 facilities if they were covered by CFATS (farmers are currently temporarily exempted from the Top Screen submission requirements of CFATS). Only Tier 1 and Tier 2 facilities could possibly be required by the Secretary to switch to safer chemicals. Thus anhydrous ammonia fertilizer end-point sales would not be affected by HR 2868 and the entire manufacture distribution system would be effectively exempted from the substitution requirements.

Where anhydrous ammonia is used to manufacture other fertilizers, it will be difficult to justify the switch to slightly less dangerous aqueous ammonia solutions simply on economic grounds. This would require the complete redesign of manufacturing processes and chemical handling equipment. It would significantly increase the number of hazardous materials shipments and the number of times that those chemicals would be handled. The capital costs for the switch and the increased operational costs would be hard to justify with the slim margins typically found on fertilizers used in large scale commercial farming.

It is always disheartening to see political discourse reduced exaggeration of the potential affects of legislation. There are a number of points of clear disagreement about many provisions of HR 2868. The discussion about whether or not to pass the bill should remain focused on those areas so that reasonable accommodations can be reached between the various affected groups. Resorting to exaggerated claims to garner wider support only poisons the political process.


Anonymous said...

I happen to agree that IST is largely a safety issue as it pertains to finding the safest way to manufacture goods. So I agree with Pam Guffain's statement there and I have been thinking that IST enforcement could possibly have a better fit under OSHA. Largely, US companies are familiar with OSHA regulations and if OSHA regulated a process as it pertains to safety it would be better for both companies and employees. OSHA should have enough of a big stick to enforce IST. Enforcement overlaps are already occurring with CFATS and other agencies. But I'll save that for a future comment. I'd also like to suggest Mr. Wegmeyer to look at the CFATS process and take note that it is largely an electronic process. I am unsure how they think it ads too much paperwork for a company to handle.

PJCoyle said...

My response to the comments made by Anonymous can be found at:

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