Friday, April 23, 2010


Today the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) published a notice and request for comments in the Federal Register concerning a proposed study to be conducted for the Board by the National Academy of Sciences NAS about the use of methyl isocyanate (MIC) at the Bayer CropScience facility in Institute, WV. The notice outlines the scope of the proposed study and requests public comments on that proposal. Authorization The FY 2010 budget for the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (PL 111-88) included the following language authorizing this study:
“Provided further, That of the funds appropriated under this heading, $600,000 shall be for a study by the National Academy of Sciences to examine the use and storage of methyl isocyanate including the feasibility of implementing alternative chemicals or processes and an examination of the cost of alternatives at theBayer CropScience facility in Institute, West Virginia.” (PL 111–88, 123 Stat 2950)
This language was added by Sen. Byrd (D, WV) as a result of the August 2008 explosion and resulting deaths at that facility. The explosion involved one of the units that used on-site produced MIC. According to the CSB preliminary report on that incident a larg above-ground storage tank of MIC was very nearly impacted by projectiles produced by the explosion. This could have resulted in a catastrophic release of MIC that could have produced wide spread injuries and deaths at the facility and in the surrounding communities. Study to Look at IST This notice makes clear that the funded NAS study will look at the topic of inherently safer technology (IST) from a general perspective as well as how those techniques could be applied in this specific situation. It proposes to task the NAS with reviewing and evaluating the current state of the art in IST assessments and to report on the following specific subjects (75 FR 21224):
“Provide a working definition of Inherently Safer Technology (IST), as the term applies to the chemical industry and other process industries. “Review and evaluate current practices for inherently safer process assessments, including the goals and applicability of these tools. Specifically, do existing methods adequately account for all the potential life-cycle benefits and risks from adopting inherently safer technologies? “Review and evaluate current economic valuation methods for estimating the cost of alternative chemicals and processes. Specifically, do these methods accurately estimate capital investment costs, operating costs, and payback periods? “Review and evaluate current standards and metrics for measuring the effectiveness of inherently safer technology applications in the chemical and process industries. “Review and evaluate the impact of existing state and local regulatory programs that seek to promote inherently safer processes, such as the Industrial Safety Ordinance in Contra Costa County, California, and the Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act in New Jersey. “Provide guidance on best practices for inherently safer process assessments, metrics, and IST cost evaluation methods.”
These subjects will bear on the current political debate on the current political debate on the subject of providing DHS with the authority to require IST assessments as part of the Site Security Plan required under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) and allowing DHS to require some facilities to implement feasible and effective IST alternatives identified in those assessments. Opponents will probably seize on the provision for a one-year time table on the completion of this study as a reason to oppose the inclusion of IST provisions in any legislation this year to extend the CFATS program beyond its current expiration in October of this year. Proponents will not be happy with that one-year delay, but will probably applaud a definitive answer to the questions that have been raised in political discussions on this issue by their opponents. Public Comments While general comments on the proposal will be accepted, the CSB is looking for comments on four specific areas (75 FR 21225):
1. “Does the proposed Task Statement include the appropriate topics for consideration by the NAS? Are there any additional general or specific topics the NAS panel will need to consider in order to reach a satisfactory answer on the feasibility and costs of reducing the use and storage of MIC? 2. “If funds are available, should the CSB initiate a second, related study to consider the feasibility, costs, and benefits of inherently safer alternatives to other chemicals? For example, should a study consider alternatives to the use of hydrogen fluoride in refinery alkylation processes and/or to the use of chlorine in water treatment? What other chemicals or processes should be considered if a second study is undertaken? 3. “What kinds of backgrounds and expertise should be represented on the NAS panel? 4. “Is the proposed timetable appropriate?”
Public comments may be submitted electronically by email to CSB requests that comments in attachments be in PDF, MS Word or ASCII files; virus-free and unencrypted. Comments must include the docket number (CSB-10-01) and the providers full name and address. The CSB is providing a very short comment period; comments must be received by May 10th, 2010. I really wish that the CSB would use the web site for their comments as it provides the public with an easy way to view the comments that have been submitted. I’ll try to get copies of the submissions at the end of the comment period to report on those comments.

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