Merritt: Petrochemical industry needs strengthened oversight
Jul 12, 2007 11:24 AM
Federal regulatory oversight of the petrochemical industry should be strengthened, according to testimony by the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) chairman before a Senate CSB oversight committee.
Carolyn Merritt also told the committee that BP's safety culture was flawed and American communities are unprepared for chemical disasters. The July 10 hearing was the first of the CSB oversight committee on chemical process safety issues since the establishment of the agency in 1998.
She said the CSB concluded in March 2007 that "organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels of the BP Corporation" caused the March 23, 2005, explosion at the BP Texas City refinery. The final investigation report called on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to increase inspection and enforcement at US oil refineries and chemical plants, and to require these corporations to evaluate the safety impact of mergers, reorganizations, downsizing, and budget cuts.
CSB's other investigations reveal a variety of common findings, Ms. Merritt said. "I have been greatly concerned by the lack of chemical emergency preparedness that our investigations have found among many communities where accidents strike. Preventing accidents and mitigating their impact requires an active partnership between communities and industrial facilities. If that partnership is missing the stage is set for a potentially severe impact on the community."
She also urged the committee to compare the CSB's existing statutory authorities with those of the older and more established National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). She pointed specifically to the authorities to preserve and test evidence, rapidly access the sites of chemical releases, and receive relevant records and information from other agencies.
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