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CSB report on Caribbean Petroleum explosion on hold amid board dissent

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Caribbean Petroleum Refining Tank Explosion and Fire

Photo: Chemical Safety Board (CSB)

Washington – A stalemate between the two current members of the Chemical Safety Board means the agency’s final investigation report on the 2009 Caribbean Petroleum refinery explosion remains in limbo.

At a July 22 public meeting, board member Richard Engler introduced a motion to adopt and release CSB’s final investigation report on a massive blast at an oil refinery that injured three people and damaged about 300 homes near Catano, Puerto Rico. However, board member Manuel Ehrlich declined to second the motion, which prevented CSB from releasing the final report and an accompanying safety video.

According to Engler, CSB’s final report includes several recommendations to improve safeguards for above-ground storage tanks. Among other measures, CSB recommended that OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency determine the best regulatory standards for above-ground tanks.

Ehrlich said he disagreed with the report’s recommendation for new regulations from EPA and OSHA. He said agencies already are stretched thin by insufficient staffing and resources. The recommendations also would be “burdensome for industry” and punish others for Caribbean Petroleum’s errors, he said.

Engler said he was “deeply disturbed” by Ehrlich’s reasoning.

“We don’t propose regulations,” Engler said. “But if we think that regulations should be considered, we have a duty and obligation to put them forward for consideration.”