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Chemical safety board withdraws appeal over accident reporting

Chemical plant safety inspection

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has withdrawn its appeal of a federal district court judge’s order to adopt regulations requiring people to report accidental chemical releases to the agency.

A judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the CSB to promulgate reporting regulations within 12 months of the court’s Feb. 4 order, according to court documents in Air Alliance Houston et al v. U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. On Thursday, the CSB filed an unopposed motion to drop its appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The CSB’s rulemaking schedule remains unchanged and the agency intends to issue a proposed rule in October and publish a final rule by Feb. 1, 2020, according to a spokesperson.

Congress established the CSB by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and directed the agency to promulgate certain reporting requirements concerning accidental chemical releases, but the agency has not done as Congress directed since beginning its operations in 1998, according to the judge’s ruling.

“Ten years ago, the agency did take a step towards developing regulations, but ultimately that effort came up empty,” the judge said, noting that the CSB published an advanced notice of proposed rule-making to obtain comments on how best to proceed with implementing the reporting requirement, but has not taken any action in the ensuing 10 years.

The CSB did not deny that its enabling statute requires the agency to promulgate the rule, but asserted that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue, according to the ruling.

“Second, the CSB half-heartedly maintains that the agency’s inaction has not been ‘unreasonably delayed’ even though nearly 30 years have passed since Congress enacted the CSB’s enabling statute,” the judge noted in the Feb. 4 ruling. “The court finds neither argument has merit.”

The CSB is charged with investigating chemical safety incidents such as an explosion and fire at a Philadelphia refinery complex in June. The agency reported in June that weaknesses in safety management systems and organizational safety culture contributed to the severity of a 2014 incident at a chemical facility in La Porte, Texas, that killed four workers.





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