Anhydrous Regs Delayed For Year

By DTN Staff

OMAHA (DTN) — Fertilizer retailers and anhydrous ammonia users got a bit of an early Christmas present in the tax and spending bill passed last week.

Buried in the omnibus appropriations bill is a rider that forbids the Occupation Safety and Health Agency from requiring ag retailers to comply with Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (PSM) regulations. The rules would have required ag retail operations that sell anhydrous ammonia fertilizers to have the same level of safety rules and facility securities as do chemical manufacturers.

DTN reported earlier in 2015 that while OSHA estimated the costs of facility safety renovations at $2,160 per site, the Ag Retailers Association estimated it would cost members an average of $20,000 per site. Some retailers said costs would be more than $60,000 to comply and that they would stop selling anhydrous if the exemption was removed.

The prohibition on OSHA requiring higher safety rules for retailers lasts through calendar year 2016.

“This bill puts a stop sign in front of a runaway agency,” said Daren Coppock, president and CEO of the Ag Retailers Association, in a press release. “Congress blocked OSHA’s imprudent attempt to require ag retailers to comply with a regulation that doesn’t fit our industry. We are willing to work with the administration to develop targeted, common-sense regulations to improve safety and security at agricultural retail facilities and surrounding communities.”

The press release said ARA would continue the legal action the groups filed with The Fertilizer Institute against OSHA in September. The Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., recently deferred ruling on OSHA’s motion to dismiss the case, which will allow the case to proceed according to ARA.

The action to revoke the PSM exemption for retailers came on the heels of the deadly West, Texas, fertilizer retailer explosion in 2013. Ag retailers had questioned the connection, as the West disaster was caused by a fire that ignited dry ammonium nitrate fertilizer. It did not involve anhydrous ammonia.

“Any additional regulation placed on agricultural retailers should, first and foremost, improve employee and community safety and security. It should also be scientifically sound, cost-effective and developed transparently with industry input,” Coppock added. “OSHA’s end-run around formal rulemaking failed all those criteria, which is why Congress saw fit to step in. We believe the courts will uphold our case, as well.”

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