Register Today for the 6th Annual Palmetto Conference

It’s that time of year to mark your calendar for the 6th Annual Palmetto Chapter Technical Conference being held October 1st – 3rd in beautiful Myrtle Beach, SC. The theme of this year’s conference is “Best Practices in Metal Finishing.” We have a great line up of speakers to discuss topics relating to quality, testing, environmental, and safety. To change things up this year we’ve added a session on Wednesday dedicated to maintenance troubleshooting. Download the registration sheet (PDF) for information on the conference agenda and registration information. For all you golfers, I think you’ll enjoy this year’s track! We are expecting another great turnout this year, so please register and make your reservations ASAP!

Posted in Events, NASF Chapters

New EPA Ozone Standards “Could Break” U.S. Domestic Manufacturing, according to NAM Study

Another major regulatory milestone is pending at EPA.  The agency has until December 1, 2014, to decide whether to keep or change current national air quality standards for ozone.  In a new study just released in late July, the National Association of Manufacturers argues that a lower standard could end up being the costliest regulation in U.S. history, with an added tab for the U.S. economy of up to $270 billion per year and a total bill of $3.4 trillion over the next 25 years.

According to the NAM study, impacts could include forcing the closure of one-third of the nation’s coal-fired power plants and disastrous consequences for U.S. domestic manufacturing, which is expanding in part due to favorable supplies of affordable energy.

“Manufacturing in the United States is making a comeback, and we’re reducing emissions at the same time, but tightening the current ozone standard to near unachievable levels would serve as a self-inflicted wound to the U.S. economy at the worst possible time,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “This rule would undermine our work to expand manufacturing in the United States, making it almost impossible to increase operations, create new jobs or keep pace internationally.”

The NAM Environmental Quality Committee, of which NASF is a member, discussed the implications of the findings of the study at a recent meeting in Washington. The study, conducted by NERA Consulting, assessed the potential consequences of reducing the existing ozone standard from 75 ppb to 60 ppb, as called for by the American Lung Association and other groups. Requiring a reduction from 75 ppb to 60 ppb would leave nearly all of the United States in a so-called “nonattainment zone,” according to NERA, which would “bring an ending the manufacturing boom.”

According to the study, the EPA’s expected proposal to revise the current standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 60 ppb could:

  • Reduce U.S. GDP by $270 billion per year;
  • Put 2.9 million jobs at risk per year;
  • Reduce the average U.S. household’s consumption by $1,570 per year; and
  • Increase natural gas and electricity costs for manufacturers and households across the country.

In releasing the new findings, NAM underscores that manufacturers in nonattainment areas would not be able to make investments and expand operations without other businesses reducing their emissions or closing their operations. Meeting a standard of 60 ppb, which is the “top end” of the range of acceptable standards called for by public interest groups, would impact manufacturers of all sizes across every industrial sector.

To better assess the practical impacts of new standards for surface finishing, NASF will be discussing the ozone issue and soliciting further feedback from member companies in upcoming fall chapter meetings of the association across the U.S. In the meantime, for more information about the state-by-state impacts, click here, or watch the new NAM short video, titled “Understanding Ground-Level Ozone Policies.

Posted in Law & Regulation

Chemicals: EPA Requests Information to Update Federal Risk Management Program (RMP) Regulations

EPA has formally announced it will be reviewing input from industry and the public in order to update a major federal program aimed at preventing industrial chemical accidents.  The agency released a lengthy document in the Federal Register on July 31, 2014, requesting information on its Risk Management Program’s regulated substance list and 18 other topics under consideration. Click here to access the document. Comments are due to the agency by October 29, 2014.

Among the issues NASF and its members will be discussing for affected facilities will be the agency’s option to potentially require a safer chemical alternatives option analysis, mandating buffer zones from facilities housing regulated substances and strengthening audit and maintenance requirements.

“Chemical safety and security are a shared commitment among government, industry, public interest groups and communities,” Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, said in a statement. “We are reaching out to all these partners to ask for their suggestions and comments to help us improve the Risk Management Program, and in turn improve safety and security of chemical facilities.”

The agency’s Request for Information comes one year after President Obama issued Executive Order 13650 which was intended to address gaps in U.S. chemical security rules following a major ammonium nitrate explosion in West, Texas.

EPA’s Risk Management Program and OSHA’s related Process Safety Management standard were authorized by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.  The programs were a response to major international chemical incidents, and were aimed at preventing or minimizing the consequences of accidental chemical releases for workers, the public and the environment. The RMP includes management technologies, procedures and practices, such as a requirement that facilities housing covered chemicals over threshold quantities submit risk management plans to the agency.

The RMP list of covered chemicals consists of 77 toxic substances and 63 flammable substances. However, the list doesn’t include ammonium nitrate, a chemical that is used as both a fertilizer and as an explosive.  The agency has recommended adding ammonium nitrate to the list, as well as expanding it by including additional toxic or flammable substances, explosives, reactive substances or other categories.  EPA will also be considering raising or lowering threshold quantities and removing certain substances from the list.

For more information, please contact Jeff Hannapel or Christian Richter.

Posted in Law & Regulation

Senate Spending Proposal Says OSHA Can Inspect Very Small Chemical Operations

In a departure from past OSHA budgets, the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Labor Department said that OSHA can inspect small establishments where the potential for a catastrophic chemical incident exists.

The subcommittee released its proposed OSHA budget of close to $560 million in June, but details on spending and related Department of Labor programs were not available then. The Senate panel’s new language clarifies that OSHA is allowed to carry out inspections of nonfarm establishments covered by OSHA’s Process Safety Management standards or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical accident prevention rules.

The new language aims to make it clear that the long-standing congressional prohibition on OSHA inspecting employers with 10 or fewer workers in industries with lower-than-average injury and illness rates doesn’t apply at worksites where there is a potential for a catastrophic chemical accident, such as the April 2013 explosion at the fertilizer facility in West, Texas, in which 15 people were killed.

Posted in Law & Regulation

Chemicals at Facilities: Senate Panel Approves Changes to Homeland Security Program

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security approved legislation in late July by a voice vote to reauthorize the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program (CFATS).  The bill is an amended version of an earlier House-passed bill (H.R. 4007), and would revise and extend the existing program for four years.

The bill reestablishes CFATS, which first became law in 2007 and gives the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authority to require all chemical and other facilities with certain threshold quantities of a chemical to evaluate their risks and submit security plans to the agency for approval.  The DHS assigns facilities to one of four risk levels, with Tier 1 being the most vulnerable.  Companies are required to develop site security plans based on their assigned risk level.  The implementation of the original CFATS in recent years has been viewed as a success by some, but controversial to others as it has been burdensome and time-consuming for many facilities.

Criticisms of the DHS Program

In fact, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), the ranking Republican on the committee, has roundly criticized the existing CFATS program and advocated for more aggressive reforms.  He recently released a report, “Chemical Insecurity,” which argued that the CFATS program is not reducing terrorist threats to facilities and that the wrong types of facilities are being regulated.

“Since its creation, the CFATS program has been beset by chronic mismanagement, missed goals, backlogs, and regulatory excess.  This program exists to increase our nation’s security against attacks on chemical facilities, but it hasn’t adequately met that goal.  Combined with the current leadership at CFATS, I am confident this bill will provide the necessary fixes to put the program on track to reducing our nation’s vulnerability to chemical terrorism,” Senator Coburn said.

In light of Coburn’s concerns, he and Senate Homeland Security committee chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) worked through key issues so that the measure passed out of the Senate committee represents a compromise that helps fulfill the recommendations issued by an interagency working group as part of the President’s Executive Order 13650 to improve facility safety and security, and increase the effectiveness of the program in the future.  It also is viewed as providing regulatory certainty to facilities operating under the program, and does not contain some of the more unfavorable provisions that anti-chemical industry activists have supported.

Legislative Clock is Ticking

NASF and other industry groups are monitoring the legislative calendar, as Congress may not have enough time before the end of 2014 to send final legislation to the White House.  The full Senate must take up the bill and then work out differences with the House in a conference agreement.  For a copy and summary of the legislation, click here.

Posted in Law & Regulation