The Agricultural Retailers Association is strongly urging it membership to contact their local members of Congress regarding Fiscal Year 2017 budgeting about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration attempt to remove the “retail exemption” from the Process Safety Management (PSM) regulation.

ARA has termed removal of the exemption as “federal overreach” in putting new regulations on retailers of anhydrous ammonia that are unwarranted after two decades of the exemption being in place, and no obvious reason for removing it other than over reaction to the West Fertilizer explosion of April 2013.

Richard Gupton, ARA senior vice president public policy and counsel, explained that ammonium nitrate was the problem at West, Texas. He said, “In fact, the ammonia that was present at the West site had no issues with leaks or tank integrity despite being immediately adjacent to the ammonium nitrate detonation. The West incident in no way justifies imposing PSM on ammonia retail facilities.”

Gupton further explained that ag retail operations are extensively regulated and that anhydrous ammonia is already covered by EPA’s Risk Management Program. Complying with additional “unnecessary regulations” will require manpower, time and financial resources.

Congress at the end of 2015, passed an appropriations bills that is keeping OSHA from removing the exemption until after this summer, but a similar appropriations bill is needed to keep enforcement at bay until more permanent congressional action.

Gupton’s call to action was explained fully with a concluding message.  “There was report language passed with the Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations law to prohibit enforcement of OSHA's new interpretation of longstanding policy.  OSHA interpreted this congressional guidance extremely narrowly, and decided to simply wait until the current fiscal year is over and then begin enforcement.  We now need similar language in the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations law!  Congress is currently considering appropriations proposals.”  

Gupton ended with the call to action. “Ask your representative to tell the Appropriations Committee this language is a must-have priority in the 2017 appropriations bill!”