Sunday, December 22, 2013

EO 13650: A Late 90-Day Update

It has been over a month now since I wrote anything on President Obama’s Chemical Safety and Security Executive Order (EO 13650) and that has mainly been because, beyond some listening sessions and the OSHA RFI, there does not seem to be much movement on the EO. Then Friday the beneficent information sharing gods showered me with three separate emails providing updated information on the topic; one from the American Chemistry Council, and two from the Executive Order 13650 Working Group.

ACC Blog Post

Scott Jenson, the Issues Communications Director from the ACC, sent me a link to their recent blog post on the EO. It provides a very nice summary of the events leading to the EO and the actions that apparently have been taken since. There is a great deal of support for the EO by the ACC (and most folks in the chemical industry) and that is reiterated in this blog post.

The only negative comments here are saved for the suggestions that the EO should serve as a vehicle for instituting federal requirements for implementing inherently safer technology mandates. This is a long standing ACC position, shared by most chemical companies. The post does provide a brief summary of the arguments against an IST mandate.

To date I have seen nothing that indicates that the Working Group is considering such a requirement, but it has certainly been something that has been discussed in the listening sessions as if the WG had such a proposal in the drafting phase.

January Listening Sessions

The second email I received Friday was from the Working Group (via their email address) and it concerned the listening sessions scheduled for next month. These sessions are all in-person public meetings with a listen-only telepresence capability. The dates/times and locations are listed in the table below.

All advance registrations are being handled by; links are provided in the table. The linked in-person registration pages provide good details about the venue location along with a link to a Google Map to the location. There is also information about how to go about registering to provide a 5 minute presentation.

0900 – 1630
Sacramento, CA
1800 – 2000
Los Angeles, CA
0900 – 1400
Los Angeles, CA
0900 – 1630
Washington, DC
0900 – 1630
Houston, TX

As always, written comments may be submitted to the working group, either via the Federal eRulemaking Portal (; Docket # DHS-2013-0075) or by email to the Working Group.

A brief note about the use of the site. It does require registration and it was set up as a service for government employees. There is one point in the registration process that you have to select your affiliation. The default for most people will be ‘government employee/military’ even if you are not affiliated with the government. The owner of the site has assured me that there will be no repercussions for using that designation.

Working Group Update

The final Friday email was also from the Working Group. It provided me with a copy of an official Working Group update on EO 13650 (Undated!! Why can’t they put dates on these things? It will just get confusing when they issue a second update.).  This four page document provides a high-level summary of the EO and a listing of public actions taken to date. Those include

• Establishment of a Working Group web page on the OSHA site (link in the update does not work, they forgot to include “https://”). NOTE: There are also web pages on the EPA site and DHS site; the one on the OSHA site has the most information and the DHS web site is worthless.

• Exploring information sharing initiatives between Federal agencies and ‘vetted members of the SERCs’. Mentions include ATF and CFATS exploring these possibilities. The EPA pilot program ‘Effective Chemical Risk Management Project, Federal Region Two’, that I’ve mentioned before; still no web site for this initiative.

• Continued conversations between OSHS/EPA/ATF and the Chemical Safety Boardto improve coordination and exchange of information during investigations of chemical incidents.     

• Sharing of chemical safety/security database information between EPA, OSHA and DHS to aid in compliance checking for the three programs (RMP, PSM, and CFATS). I’ve heard the EPA-DHS database sharing was relatively easy, but they were having problems with the OSHA PSM database; database communications can be tricky.

• Publication of the interim advisory (NOTE: the link in the Update takes you to an EPA page listing a number of chemical safety publications, my link takes you to the document) on storage of ammonium nitrate.

• Publication of the OSHA RFI for updating their chemical safety regulations and guidance that I have already covered.

One small nit-picking point; all of the links in the Update take you away from the Update page without options for opening documents in separate tabs or pages. This seems to be a standard coding practice with many Federal documents and it is unnecessary and annoying.

What Was Supposed to Have Been Accomplished

The following items from the Executive Order that were supposed to have been accomplished by the 90-day point (November 5th or 22nd depending on how you count the 16 days in the Federal funding fiasco) were not addressed in this Update:

• The Working Group shall develop options for improved chemical facility safety and security that identifies improvements to existing risk management practices through agency programs, private sector initiatives, Government guidance, outreach, standards, and regulations

• The Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Agriculture shall develop a list of potential regulatory and legislative proposals to improve the safe and secure storage, handling, and sale of ammonium nitrate.

• The Administrator of EPA and the Secretary of Labor shall review the chemical hazards covered by the Risk Management Program (RMP) and the Process Safety Management Standard (PSM) and determine if the RMP or PSM can and should be expanded to address additional regulated substances and types of hazards.

• The EPA and the Department of Labor shall develop a plan, including a timeline and resource requirements, to expand, implement, and enforce the RMP and PSM in a manner that addresses the additional regulated substances and types of hazards.

• The Secretary of Homeland Security shall identify a list of chemicals, including poisons and reactive substances, that should be considered for addition to the CFATS Chemicals of Interest list.

• The Secretary of Labor shall identify any changes that need to be made in the retail and commercial grade exemptions in the PSM Standard.

I always maintained that the schedule called for in the EO was more than a little tight. Most of this stuff is complex and deals with coordination between government agencies at multiple levels. There is no way that the initial schedule was going to be met.

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