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Hurricane-related power outages could trigger chemical releases, safety board warns


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Washington — Hurricanes and high winds could “significantly impact” the U.S. bulk-power system and lead to the release of hazardous chemicals if facilities lose power, the Chemical Safety Board says.

Board members are urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to revise a recent final rule that covers transmission system planning performance requirements for extreme weather for the bulk-power system.

In a letter dated July 13, CSB urges FERC to address hurricanes and high winds “in a future rulemaking as soon as possible.” Published on June 23 and set to go into effect Sept. 21, the FERC and Department of Energy final rule doesn’t address extreme weather events apart from heat and cold, the letter contends, “although stakeholders had urged” the agencies to consider other extreme weather.

“Because bulk-power system reliability directly impacts chemical process safety (and the safety of people who work at chemical facilities and who live in the communities nearby), we would like to talk with you about FERC addressing hurricanes and other such extreme weather events in a future rulemaking,” the letter states.

The letter is signed by CSB Chair Steve Owens and copies CSB members Sylvia Johnson and Catherine J.K. Sandoval, as well as Steve Klejst, the agency’s executive director of investigations and recommendations.

CSB says “serious chemical releases that resulted from, or were made worse by, loss of power during hurricanes” occurred during Hurricanes Harvey (August 2017) and Laura (August 2020). 

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