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CSB announces final rule on chemical incident reporting

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UPDATE: The final rule was published in the Feb. 21 Federal Register. It is set to go into effect on March 23.

Washington — The Chemical Safety Board has issued a long-anticipated final rule that requires owners or operators of chemical facilities to report to the agency within eight hours certain information regarding incidental releases of hazardous chemicals resulting in death, serious injury or substantial property damage.

According to a prepublication version of the rule posted on CSB’s website Feb. 5, chemical facility officials will be required to include in their reports the following information:

  • Location information and facility identifier
  • Approximate time of the release
  • A brief description of the release
  • An indication whether a fire, explosion, fatality, serious injury or property damage has occurred
  • The name of the material or materials involved
  • Whether the release has resulted in an evacuation order affecting members of the general public

“The CSB anticipates that these reports will provide the agency with key information important to the CSB in prompt deployment decisions,” interim Executive Authority Kristen Kulinowski said in a statement.

CSB was founded in 1998, but until recently had not published a regulation for chemical incident reporting as called for under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. In a February 2019 ruling on a lawsuit against the agency led by Air Alliance Houston, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered CSB to promulgate a final reporting rule within 12 months.

After weighing input on a proposed rule for which the comment period expired Jan. 13, CSB elected to increase to eight hours from four the deadline to report an incident. The prepublication rule states that this will “provide the owner/operator more time to gather the necessary information” but acknowledges that some information may not be known within this time frame.

 

Further, the agency revised the rule’s definition of “serious injury” to encompass “any injury or illness if it results in death or inpatient hospitalization.” Consequently, “CSB believes that only a very small fraction of owner/operators will ever need to file a report with the CSB,” the prepublication rule states.

The rule will go into effect 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

“I am confident that the rule will achieve its intended purpose in a manner that will help improve the CSB’s safety mission,” Kulinowski said in the statement. “The CSB intends to work cooperatively with various stakeholders to ensure that affected parties understand and comply with the rule.”

CSB states in the prepublication rule that it will disclose initial incident information once a year. Additionally, because the agency lacks enforcement authority, CSB “retains discretion” to forward suspected violations to the Environmental Protection Agency administrator “for appropriate enforcement action.”

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