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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2003

Contact: Fred Mumford
(609) 984-1795

New Measures Adopted to Prevent Chemical Accidents for Improved Community Safety
New Jersey First to Require Precautions for Reactive Chemicals

(03/109) Trenton - Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced expansion of New Jersey's Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act (TCPA) program to provide greater protection for residents living near industrial facilities.

"More protection for our residents from the threat of hazardous chemical reactions in the industrial process will make neighborhoods safer and is good business policy," said DEP Commissioner Campbell. "We will work with New Jersey businesses on this pioneering initiative to implement prevention plans for reactive chemicals and to incorporate safer technology."

DEP formally added reactive chemicals to the list of extraordinarily hazardous substances that trigger risk management planning requirements of TCPA. These chemicals can explode when accidentally exposed to air or water, or when they are improperly mixed with certain other chemicals. The force of the explosion can kill or permanently disable people outside the facility.

New Jersey will require companies handling reactive chemicals to prepare accidental release prevention plans and examine safer technologies to prevent industrial incidents like the tragic ones that occurred at Napp Technologies in Lodi in 1995 and at Morton International in Paterson in 1998. The Napp and Morton International accidents were the result of reactive chemistry interactions.

"Governor McGreevey and Commissioner Campbell deserve great credit for taking leadership to prevent the potentially horrific hazards of reactive chemicals from endangering communities and workers," said Rick Engler, Director of the New Jersey Work Environment Council, an alliance of 67 labor, community, and environmental organizations. "The Department of Environmental Protection's new rule will help save lives."

The federal Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), which is the agency responsible for investigating chemical accidents, recently made recommendations to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration concerning reactive hazards and the need for additional regulation of reactive chemicals. In 2001, the Bush Administration withdrew a plan to regulate reactive chemicals.

"New Jersey is the first state in the nation to address reactive hazards," said Charles Jeffress, chief operating officer of the CSB. "The Chemical Safety Board is very pleased by this step forward to protect residents and workers from chemical accidents."

The amendments to the TCPA rules also reinstate a requirement, which the state dropped in 1998, mandating that all facilities regulated under the program evaluate every five years state of the art technologies to reduce the risk of an accident and implement this technology if cost effective. The state of the art standard also applies for new processes when a company expands or changes operations.

Currently, 103 companies are covered by the TCPA program and must implement risk management programs. These companies represent industries such as water treatment plants, chemical manufacturers, food manufacturers and processors, pharmaceutical companies, refineries and warehouses.

DEP did not adopt proposed changes that would have listed liquefied petroleum gas and its constituents as flammable extraordinarily hazardous substances when used as a feedstock in a process. The department agreed that the current level of federal and state regulation for liquefied petroleum gas is sufficient to ensure public safety, as noted in comments received by the regulated community. The proposed TCPA amendments would not have applied to retailers storing propane as a fuel or to people using propane as a fuel.

Approximately 40 additional companies are expected to become subject to the TCPA rules as a result of the new requirements because they use certain reactive chemicals. Twenty-two companies currently regulated under TCPA are expected to have to comply with additional regulatory requirements for using the substances. New prevention measures were added for 30 reactive hazardous substances and 43 chemical groups, depending upon a company's volume and use of the chemicals.

 

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