By Anna Hrybyk, Program Manager
Listening Session Public Comment
Executive Order #13650: Improving Chemical Safety and Security
Thank you for the opportunity to comment. My name is Anna Hrybyk and I have been the Program Manager at the Louisiana Bucket Brigade since 2008. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is an environmental health and justice non-profit whose mission is to support grassroots action to create an informed, healthy society whose culture holds the petrochemical industry and the government accountable for the true costs of pollution.
I have been working with neighborhoods living on the fencelines of the sprawling petrochemical industry across the state and the government agencies that serve them on the issue of improving chemical safety and security with the goal of preventing petrochemical accidents. Our state of Louisiana is particularly vulnerable, being on the frontlines of both the causes and the effects of climate change.
Louisiana’s 17 refineries, 150 chemical plants, 60,000 oil wells and over 36,000 miles of pipelines produce the most oil and have the second largest refining capacity in the country . Petrochemical accidents average 10 per week in Louisiana, according to the federal National Response Center. “Since 2007, the U.S. Coast Guard has reported fielding more complaints of oil and chemical spills from the thousands of wells and thousands of miles of pipelines in Louisiana than in any other state, exceeding 4,000 a year.”
There are over 200,000 people and 90 schools and daycares within two miles of a refinery in Louisiana. Many of these communities are so close the facilities their foundations shake when the flare rumbles, they can hear workers inside the plant talking on the intercom and dangerous gases routinely emitted by the plants get trapped in people’s homes making it more dangerous to be inside than outside at times.
There are four areas that need strengthening in order to improve chemical safety and security and prevent petrochemical accidents.
1. EPA’s Risk Management Plan Program
First, EPA’s Risk Management Plan program needs to improve its method of targeting of high risk facilities for inspections. I believe EPA’s targeting can be better if EPA correlates other information sent to OSHA, the National Response Center, the state police and the state department’s of environmental quality. EPA currently only relies of what industry self-reports in their Risk Management Plans every five years. As I will show, this Plan often contradicts what company’s report to the state and other federal agencies.
In October 2010, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade reviewed the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Refinery Risk Management Plan (RMP) while visiting EPA Region VI in Dallas. Our review shows that the RMP as written does not comply with CAA(r) 40 CFR Part 68 Accidental Release Prevention.
Though the facility’s RMP states that they have no accident history to report for any of the processes covered by the RMP, the refinery’s own upset reports show that EMBRR has reported the following to the LDEQ and/or State Police from 2005-2010.
|No.||Unit/Process||Number of incident reports to LDEQ involving unit||Amount of pollution reported (pounds)|
None of these were self-reported to EPA’s Risk Management Plan as required by law. Some of these incidents were catastrophic. On May 7, 2009, an incident on the PCLA unit (LDEQ#114733) led to Carbon Monoxide exposure among nine employees. According to OSHA, this occurred because the venture nozzles were corroded, including one steel shell that had rusted to the point where the material was paper-thin. Fires were frequent at EM BRRF in 2010. On April 14, 2010 a flash fire occurred at the refinery sending two contract workers and one EM employee to the burn unit at Baton Rouge General Hospital. No information was given regarding the root cause of the fire. This was the second of five fires at the facility in 2010.
Second, increase the number of RMP inspectors working in Region VI because of the high volume of hazardous facilities located in populated areas. Currently there is only one inspector and one trainee based out of Houston. That is nowhere near enough to prevent accidents.
Third, improve the enforcement of violations found in the RMP inspections to make sure they are concrete, meaningful actions toward the prevention of accidents. After a 2011 RMP Inspection of the Calumet Refinery in Shreveport which found nine violations including failure to accurately report, failure to inspect equipment and monitor for hydrogen sulfide, the community had to wait two and a half years until EPA and Calumet agreed on the penalty. In November 2013, EPA and Calumet agreed on a civil penalty of a little more than $300,000 and required the installation of 32 fenceline sensors that test for sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and flammable vapors. The data from those sensors was not required to be made publicly available therefore the enforcement action does little to improve chemical safety and security.
Also, EPA conducted an RMP inspection of ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Refinery (mentioned above) in June 2012 and there still has been no penalty issued by the EPA for the violations found in that inspection. Violations include failure to accurately report and the failure to inspect, test and maintain over 1,000 lines in the facility despite pervasive corrosion. If the RMP program is going to prevent accidents, then enforcement of the violations found in the inspections needs to be timely and strong enough to deter non-compliant behavior in the future.
2. Local Emergency Planning Commissions (LEPCs)
The Local Emergency Planning Commissions are great in theory, but in practice they are not legally enforceable (meaning you cannot force a defunct LEPC to meet or include community representatives for example) and they have no enforcement power to preventing accidents. In October 2011, LABB conducted a review of the East Baton Rouge Parish Local Emergency Planning Commission’s (LEPC) Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) and found it in violation of EPCRA Sections 301-303. The East Baton Rouge Parish EOP fails to protect the neighborhood living within 2 miles of the EM BRRF in the event of an accidental release.
If the LEPCs are to be taken seriously by industry and emergency responders from various agencies, then the LEPC needs to be better funded and given enforcement discretion. This in turn will ensure that LEPCs are more involved during the response to chemical emergencies as well as in the prevention of them.
3. Improving information for first responders and impacted communities
One best practice in improving chemical information for first responders and impacted communities living nearby to industrial hazards is requiring fenceline monitoring on the periphery of all plants located in populated areas. Currently the Clean Air Act does not require this and a change in the rule is necessary in order to protect communities. Fenceline monitoring should monitor for multiple pollutants that are known to adversely affect health (i.e. benzene, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and a range of volatile organic compounds) the data it collects should be made available to the public in real time. Often simply public disclosure of air monitoring information can improve compliance of the facility. This effort requires no funds from EPA – only a well-written rule requirement of industry. This effort will also go long way in operationalizing the precautionary principle.
The best fenceline monitoring system that we have seen put in place and provides the best quality data on emissions is the recent Chevron Refinery in Richmond, California following the huge fire in 2012 that sent thousands to the hospital.
4. Improving Chemical Safety Board
Lastly, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has very skilled inspectors who astutely analyze chemical accidents and make recommendations on how to prevent them in the future. The CSB reports are accurate and well written but the CSB as it exists today has no enforcement discretion to hold the industry and government accountable for following its expert recommendations. This Executive Order would be well served to give the CSB enforcement discretion to see that its recommendations are carried out much like the RMP program is.
Thank you for your time and attention to my comments.
Louisiana Bucket Brigade