CSB to Begin Chemical Release Reporting Rulemaking

The agency wants comments by Aug. 4 on how it should write a rule that will require accidental chemical releases to be reported to it or to the National Response Center.

A rare rulemaking by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has begun, with CSB asking for comments by Aug. 4 on how it should write a regulation requiring accidental chemical releases to be reported to the CSB or to the National Response Center. Written comments may be e-mailed to [email protected]. (Include CSB-09-01 in the subject line of the message.)

CSB was charged with writing such a regulation in its original enabling law but never undertook the task. A DHS inspector general's report in 2004 and the Government Accountability Office both said the work should go ahead.

CSB has a designated chemical incident screener on duty 24/7, and it currently relies on reports from the news media and the National Response Center. Media reports are the source of two-thirds of its notifications; the number of incidents that are logged into CSB's system has increased from about 600 per year when CSB began keeping a database of "screened" incidents to more than 1,000 per year today. CSB's notice seeking comments noted that EPA, OSHA, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry collect chemical incident information for various purposes, and CSB will try to avoid unnecessary duplication in reporting requirements its new regulation. The notice also says CSB believes its rule should require notification of selected, high-consequences events (for example, incidents that result in death, serious injuries requiring in-patient hospitalization, large public evacuations, very substantial property damage, or acute environmental impact).

The agency has identified four general approaches it may take: 1) requiring the reporting of information on all accidental releases subject to CSB's investigatory jurisdiction; 2) a targeted approach requiring reporting of basic information (e.g., location, date, time of incident, chemical involved, number of injuries) for incidents that meet significant consequence thresholds; 3) requiring owners or operators to report to the CSB more extensive information on chemical incidents in their workplaces when notified by the CSB, which would continue to receive incident reports as it does now; and 4) a reporting requirement based on the presence or release of specified chemicals and specified threshold amounts. "However, CSB investigations have shown that serious consequences may and do result from the release of relatively small amounts of chemicals, and from chemicals that are not likely to be listed," the notice states.

CSB said it seeks comments that address these specific questions:

  • Are there Federal, State, or local rules or programs for reporting chemical or other types of incidents that would be an appropriate model for the CSB to consider in developing a reporting requirement?
  • Should an initial report be made to the CSB or the National Response Center?
  • What information should be reported to the CSB?
  • How soon after an accident should reporting occur?
  • Should the rule be designed with distinct requirements for rapid notification of high-consequence incidents and more systematic (and slower) notification of other incidents?
  • What specific factors (such as lists of chemicals or specific consequences) should the CSB consider in drafting a proposed rule?
  • How should the CSB gather information on incidents (such as combustible dust explosions and reactive chemical incidents) that may not involve specifically listed hazardous substances?
  • How might this reporting requirement best be tailored to avoid duplication with existing sources of information on chemical incidents, including federal, state, or local reporting requirements?
  • How might the CSB best target compliance education efforts?

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