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Chemical Safety Board Requests Information on Chemical Release Reporting Rule

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., July 1, 2009

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (“CSB”) has requested initial comments on developing a reporting rule for accidental chemical releases.  74 Fed. Reg. 30,262 (June 25, 2009).  Comments are due on August 4, 2009.  A copy of the advance notice of proposed rulemaking is available here.

Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act provides the CSB with authority to investigate and report on the circumstances surrounding accidental chemical releases that result in fatalities, serious injuries, or substantial property damage.  42 U.S.C. §§ 7412(r)(6)(C)(i)-(ii).  Section 112(r) also requires the CSB to issue reporting requirements for accidental releases and provides the Environmental Protection Agency with the enforcement authority.  Id. at (r)(6)(C)(iii), (r)(6)(O).  The CSB has not yet issued such regulations.  For years, it had taken the position that such reporting requirements were unnecessary.  However, in 2004, the EPA Inspector General recommended that the CSB fulfill its statutory obligation.  More recently, the Government Accountability Office did so as well.  The CSB now agrees that a reporting rule would help to improve the “timeliness, completeness, and accuracy” of the information that it collects on chemical releases.  74 Fed. Reg. at 30,260.

In the Notice, the CSB identifies and asks for comment on four possible approaches for implementing the requirement:  (1) a comprehensive approach requiring reporting of all accidental releases subject to the CSB’s investigatory jurisdiction; (2) a more targeted approach, requesting basic information for incidents that meet “significant consequences thresholds” (e.g., death, evacuations); (3) requiring reporting only upon notification by the CSB, with the CSB continuing to rely on existing sources to learn about incidents; and (4) reporting based on the presence or release of specified chemicals and specified thresholds.  Id. at 30,262. 

The CSB specifically requests information and feedback on the following:

  • existing federal or other accident-reporting programs that could serve as models;
  • whether initial reports should go to the CSB or the National Response Center;
  • what information should be reported;
  • how soon after an event reporting should occur;
  • whether to design the rule with distinct requirements for “high-consequence” events as opposed to other incidents;
  • what factors the CSB should consider (such as lists of chemicals or specific consequences);
  • how to gather information on incidents that may not involve specifically listed chemicals (such as combustible dust explosions);
  • how to avoid duplicating existing regulations; and
  • how to target compliance education efforts.  Id.

For more information, please contact Mark Duvall at (202) 789-6090 (mduvall@bdlaw.com), David Friedland at (202) 789-6047 (dfriedland@bdlaw.com), or Bethany French at (202) 789-6042 (bfrench@bdlaw.com).