Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Chemical Industry: Progressively Greater Pathology About Inherently Safer Technology

You'll recall we've written quite a bit in this blog about the debate over chemical plant security, most recently last Monday. And you'll also recall that much of the debate is whether or not a law should require chemical plants and refineries to implement, as much as possible, "inherently safety technology" in order to reduce the most serious hazards in the plants, thereby reducing its value as a terrorist target.

The chemical industry is opposed to mandating inherently safer technologies. OK, fair enough. But now they're going one step further -- playing dumb by even denying that anyone knows what it is.
Chris VandenHeuvel, a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council, an industry group, said that many companies already employ safe technology measures. In late 2001, the council vehemently opposed a security bill that contained IST language. The legislation died on the floor of the Senate.

"It is one of the most unclear concepts out there," VandenHeuvel said. "Nobody knows what it means. Nobody would know what it looks like. Nobody would know how to do it."
Well, bullshit. He's lying. Or maybe he really is dumb. So here's a bit of help, Chris.

First, the Lautenberg-Menendez-Obama legislation that we discussed the other night lays it out pretty clearly:


(A) IN GENERAL- The term `use of inherently safer technology' means use of a technology, product, raw material, or practice that, as compared to the technology, products, raw materials, or practices currently in use--

(i) significantly reduces or eliminates the possibility of the release of a substance of concern; and

(ii) significantly reduces or eliminates the hazards to public health and safety and the environment associated with the release or potential release of a substance described in clause (i).

(B) INCLUSIONS- The term `use of inherently safer technology' includes chemical substitution, process redesign, product reformulation, and procedural and technological modification so as to--

(i) use less hazardous or benign substances;

(ii) use a smaller quantity of a substance of concern;

(iii) moderate pressures or temperatures;

(iv) reduce the likelihood and potential consequences of human error;

(v) improve inventory control and chemical use efficiency; and

(vi) reduce or eliminate storage, transportation, handling, disposal, and discharge of substances of concern.

Then there's this example from a previous story I wrote:
Immediately after September 11, Washington D.C.’s Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant changed from chlorine to sodium hypochlorite, which is a strong version of bleach, but much safer. The change cost about $1 million, which translates into about 50 cents per customer more annually for sewage treatment.

"Needless to say, our neighbors were very pleased that we discontinued that practice," said Libby Lawson, a spokeswoman for the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority. "We had to rearrange a few of our economic priorities, but, obviously, it can be done."
Then there's this from Philadelphia:
In Philadelphia, Sunoco Inc. has set a good example by voluntarily committing to adopt a safer refining process by 2008 to protect its South Philadelphia neighbors. It will cost $61 million. Company officials said the new process, long sought by community residents and environmentalists, would reduce the potential drift of a "worst-case" toxic cloud from 25 miles to six. (more on that here.)
Here are a couple of examples from Obama's press release:
  • In Cheshire, Ohio, American Electric Power selected a urea-based pollution control system rather than one involving large-scale storage of ammonia that would have endangered the surrounding community.
  • In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, ALCOA reduced its potential off-site impact by working with local emergency planners and ending on-site storage of hydrofluoric acid and nitric acid.
In other words, Chris, you're lying. Or maybe you're just incredibly ignorant, in which case, allow me to introduce you to Google. Happy searching.


Go To My Main Page

Google Groups Subscribe to Confined Space
Browse Archives at

Search WWW Search Confined Space


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this Blog are my own and do not, in any way, shape or form, reflect or represent the views or policies of my employer. Links to or from other websites of individuals or organizations do not constitute an endorsement of these views.
Looking for Confined Space Safety Information?
Click Here

Search Web Search Confined Space

Greatest Hits

BP Texas City Explosion Stories

2006 Mine Disaster Stories

Popcorn Lung Stories

Speech on Receiving the APHA Lorin Kerr Award
by Jordan Barab, November 9, 2004

Acts of God, Acts of Man," by Jordan Barab, Working USA

Lies, Partisanship Caused Ergo Standard to Crumble, by Jordan Barab, Safety + Health, February 2002

A Week of Death, by Jordan Barab, Hazards, February 5, 2003


March 2003
April 2003
May 2003
June 2003
July 2003
August 2003
September 2003
October 2003
November 2003
December 2003
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007

Recent Posts


Koufax Award

For Best Single Issue Blog of 2003 and 2004