Earlier this week, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board released a draft of its report on the fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Company. CSB investigators will present their findings to the board in a public meeting in Waco, Texas, on Thursday.

The Agricultural Retailers Association has conducted a preliminary review of the draft report's findings.

"ARA agrees with several points within the Chemical Safety Board’s report concerning the West Fertilizer Company Fire and Explosion.

First and foremost, agricultural retailers remain committed to the safety and security of their employees and the communities where they operate. Since the tragic accident at West Fertilizer, ARA and the fertilizer industry have responded with several initiatives including the establishment of ResponsibleAg, an independent organization designed to help fertilizer storage and handling facilities achieve and maintain compliance with federal regulations.

Secondly, ARA was pleased CSB recommended the Occupational Safety and Health Administration do one of the following: implement Process Safety Management on Fertilizer Grade Ammonium Nitrate (FGAN), OR update the storage and handling standards in 29 CFR 1910.109(i). ARA has ardently advocated for the latter. Applying PSM to retail facilities is inappropriate, inefficient and unnecessarily burdensome.

As a response to the accident at West, revising storage and handling regulations for FGAN is the more appropriate response. The CSB report points out that West Fertilizer was not a manufacturing facility and that the anhydrous ammonia tanks did not suffer a catastrophic failure; to the contrary, they performed as intended and were able to withstand the blast. Applying PSM – a regulation designed for manufacturing – to retail fertilizer facilities will cost the industry upwards of $100 million and will not enhance workplace or community safety.

ARA also agrees with the CSB’s findings that the agricultural exemption to Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act needs to be clarified. It has caused widespread confusion and ARA will continue to support removing the exemption from the statute.

Finally, ARA is critical of the suggestion to apply Risk Management Program requirements to FGAN. RMP is a Clean Air Act program to manage and mitigate airborne releases of hazardous chemicals. Because it is a pressurized liquid, it is appropriate to regulate anhydrous ammonia under RMP and agricultural retailers are already under the CAA. On the other hand, FGAN is a dry product and it should not be regulated under RMP. It would be a far better use of regulatory resources to update 29 CFR 1910.109(i)."

ARA continues to review the report and will release an additional statement Thursday.

CSB's findings and recommendations begin on page 241 of the document. The public meeting will be streaming live online Thursday starting at 6 p.m. Central Standard Time. To view the meeting, go to: http://www.csb.gov/events/public-meeting-in-waco-texas-/.

The Fertilizer Institute also released a statement.

"Given ongoing litigation surrounding the West Fertilizer Company fire and explosion, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) is unable to comment on the specific recommendations contained in the Chemical Safety Board's (CSB) report.

"The fertilizer industry takes its commitment to safety and security seriously. Since the April, 2013, fire and explosion, fertilizer manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers have taken concrete action to ensure that all fertilizer retailers have access to the information and tools required to comply with all applicable federal regulations. This effort is underway through ResponsibleAg, an independent organization that provides comprehensive regulatory compliance audits to the nation's fertilizer retailers.

"Under ResponsibleAg, facilities are assessed by a credentialed auditor once every three years. Up to seventeen areas of a facility are assessed by the auditor. (Examples of these areas are dry fertilizer, liquid fertilizer, anhydrous ammonia, shop, office and grounds). If necessary, the facility will receive a corrective action plan listing any issues that were discovered by the auditor.

"Since its launch one year ago, ResponsibleAg has trained and credentialed more than 60 auditors and recently certified its 100th facility. Almost 2,000 additional facilities have registered to participate and are in the que for audits. This list continues to grow."

"Please visit www.responsibleag.org for additional information, including a checklist of items on the ResponsibleAg audit and a short video from the ResponsibleAg auditor training center."