[Webinar] Process Safety Update: The Latest with OSHA’s PSM Standard and EPA’s RMP Rule

On Tuesday, November 19, 2019 at 1:00 PM Eastern, join Eric J. Conn, Amanda Walker, and Micah Smith of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice for a complimentary webinar regarding Process Safety Update: The Latest with OSHA’s PSM Standard and EPA’s RMP Rule.”

Following the tragic West Fertilizer explosion in 2013, then-President Obama issued an Executive Order directing OSHA, EPA and other agencies to “modernize” the way the government regulates chemical process safety. OSHA and EPA took (or at least initiated) sweeping actions in response to the Executive Order, from enforcement initiatives (like a new wave of Refinery and Chemical Facility PSM National Emphasis Program inspections) to rulemaking and interpretation letters to overhaul OSHA’s PSM and EPA’s RMP regulatory landscape.

When President Trump took office with a de-regulatory agenda, the regulated community was left wondering what this meant for these changes to process safety regulations. But rather than a continued wave of action, the momentum splintered, with some initiatives proceeding, others coming to a halt, and others still being pared back. We saw immediate delays and the beginning of rollbacks of new process safety regulations, yet enforcement initiatives appeared to move forward unhindered. And now, with two years of the Trump Administration in the books, it is still unclear where the regulatory landscape will settle.

This webinar will review the status and likely future of OSHA’s PSM Standard and EPA’s RMP Rule, as well as other major process safety developments from the federal government, state governments, and industry groups.

Specifically, participants in this webinar will learn about: Continue reading

OSHRC Dramatically Expands Interpretation of “Interconnected” for PSM-Coverage

By Eric J. Conn and Micah Smith

On March 28, 2019, the OSH Review Commission released its decision in Sec’y of Labor v. Wynnewood Refining, OSHRC, Nos. 13-0644 & 13-0791.  In a fairly brief opinion, the Commission affirmed the decision of the ALJ on two significant issues:

  1. the PSM standard applied to a utilities boiler; and
  2. OSHA inappropriately relied upon the citation history of a prior owner in characterizing citations as Repeat.

Expanding PSM Coverage

With regard to PSM applicability, the decision is framed as a response to the arguments raised in the refinery’s brief, but it does not directly address the arguments raised by the amicus brief filed by AFPM and API.  The Commission began its discussion of PSM applicability by evaluating the meaning of the definition of “process,” in particular how to interpret this phrase:

“For purposes of this definition, any group of vessels which are interconnected and separate vessels which are located such that a highly hazardous chemical (HHC) could be involved in a potential release shall be considered a single process.”

The Commission held that, in order to prove a group of vessels qualify as a process, OSHA may prove either that a) the group of vessels are interconnected or b) separate vessels are located such that an HHC could be involved in a potential release.  With surprisingly little analysis, the Commission held that this was the plain meaning of the terms of the standard, and the Commission did not evaluate at all whether OSHA’s interpretation deserved deference.  (Note:  Chairwoman MacDougall disagreed that this was the plain meaning of the terms, but she agreed that OSHA’s interpretation of the definition deserved deference.)

This decision gave no credence to the arguments made by the refinery and the amici, which both urged the Commission to find that interconnected vessels be considered a single process only if there is a reasonable probability that an event such as an explosion would affect the interconnected vessels. Continue reading

Process Safety Update: The Latest with OSHA’s PSM Standard & EPA’s RMP Rule [Webinar Recording]

Following the tragic West Fertilizer explosion in 2013, then-President Obama issued an Executive Order directing OSHA, EPA and other agencies to “modernize” the way the government regulates chemical manufacturing processes. OSHA and EPA took sweeping actions in response to the Executive Order, from enforcement initiatives (like the second wave of Refinery PSM NEP inspections) to rulemaking and interpretation letters to overhaul OSHA’s PSM and EPA’s RMP regulatory landscape.

Then President Trump took office with a de-regulatory agenda.  Just days into office, key safety and environmental regulations were delayed or repealed, new political leadership was installed, and enforcement policies were reexamined. So where does that leave OSHA’s and EPA’s efforts to change the structure of process safety management?

This webinar reviewed the status and likely future of OSHA’s PSM Standard and EPA’s RMP Rule, and other major safety and health related developments rolling out in the early stages of the Trump Administration.

Continue reading

Key Takeaways from the Inaugural Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC

Key Takeaways from the Inaugural
Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC

By the national OSHA Practice at Conn Maciel Carey LLP

The Inaugural Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC on October 23, 2018 was a huge success.  The event allowed more than 160 safety and legal representatives from the petroleum refining, chemical manufacturing, paper manufacturing, and fertilizer industries to hear from and share with senior federal government officials from OSHA, EPA and the Chemical Safety Board, both through interactive panel discussions and breakout discussions.  The agency panels and facilitated discussions covered topics ranging from enforcement under the Trump Administration, to the status of OSHA’s PSM and RMP Rulemakings, candid debates about major issues in dispute in recent PSM and RMP cases, and practical discussions about how to prepare for the next round of inspections under OSHA’s new PSM National Emphasis Program and comply with RMP in the wake of the new Amendments and the imminent Rescission Rule.

Introduction

The day began with welcome remarks from Eric J. Conn, Chair of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice.  Eric set two themes for the Summit:

  1. the importance of candid discussions between regulators and the regulated community; and
  2. the near-term risk of agencies possibly revisiting and revising the historical performance-oriented paradigm of the process safety regulatory framework.

Too often, OSHA and EPA representatives complain that Industry “can make up the rules as it goes along.” – Tweet from a former Senior OSHA Official.

Statements like that imply a haphazard approach to process safety that it is not reflected by the diligent work of refiners and manufacturers across the country.  Our experience shows a much different take on process safety.  We hear about all of the ways that process safety is evolving, we watch how lessons are being learned and applied from incidents and experience, and we see how much time is spent anticipating the kinds of issues that could cause a process safety incident.  More importantly, remarks about Industry “making up the rules as it goes along” also reflect a flawed view that Continue reading