Larsen Calls on President Obama to Make Chemical Facilities Safer

Jul 10, 2014 Issues: Energy, Jobs Labor and the Economy

WASHINGTON—Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, continued his efforts today to improve safety at refineries and chemical facilities following the April 2010 explosion at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes that killed seven workers. Larsen sent a letter to President Obama asking him to take action to strengthen safety standards and culture at these facilities. The letter follows the release of a report from the President’s Chemical Facility Safety and Security working group that includes recommendations to make working conditions safer at chemical facilities.

“What happened at the Anacortes refinery should never happen again. The women and men who work in refineries and other facilities that process hazardous materials should be assured of the safest working conditions possible. The administration has conducted its own research about safety at these facilities, and I have asked the President to take quick action to put his working group’s recommendations in place,” Larsen said.

Larsen outlined the changes he is advocating for to make refineries safer in a recent column in the Skagit Valley Herald. Those changes include stricter safety standards and technology, improved industry standards, and reforms to the Chemical Safety Board.

Full text of the letter follows.

 

July 10, 2014

The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States

1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20050

 

Dear President Obama:

I appreciated the recent release of your administration’s report on Executive Order 13650, Actions to Improve Chemical Facility Safety and Security – A Shared Commitment. I ask that you use the recommendations in this report to quickly propose strong new rules to protect workers in refineries and other chemical facilities.

In April 2010, an explosion killed seven people at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington, a part of my district. Subsequent investigations by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, and Tesoro itself have all indicated that this explosion was not inevitable and could have been prevented with stronger safety standards and culture. I am hopeful that the report produced by your Executive Order can lead to these improved standards and increased safety at chemical facilities.

One positive step would be requiring inherently safer technology (IST) in chemical facilities, using the authority granted to the Environmental Protection Agency under Section 112(r)(1) of the Clean Air Act. My understanding is that IST could prevent many chemical facility accidents.  I also urge you to improve and strengthen existing process safety management (PSM) standards. This should include input from workers, pre-startup safety reviews when repairs are done, clearer safety instructions, and better emergency response planning.  You should also consider stronger protections for workers who believe safety is compromised to issue stop work orders under risk management plans. People on the ground are often the first to be in danger, and can provide the kind of quick action necessary to avoid accidents.

Thank you for your continued leadership to improve safety at chemical facilities. I look forward to working with you to prevent tragedies like the Anacortes explosion in the future.

Sincerely,

 

Rick Larsen

Member of Congress

Washington State, 2nd District

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