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Contact: Fred Mumford
(609) 984-1795

TCPA Amendments Proposed to Prevent Accidents at Companies Using Reactive Chemicals to Protect Public Health in Nearby Communities

(03/19) Trenton — The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has proposed expanding its Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act (TCPA) program to provide greater protection for residents living near more than 60 companies using reactive chemicals that could cause industrial accidents and explosions. DEP's proposed amendments would require additional prevention measures for 30 new reactive hazardous substances and 43 chemical groups, depending upon a company's volume and use of the chemicals.

DEP has proposed to list certain reactive chemicals as extraordinarily hazardous substances subject to risk management planning requirements of TCPA. These chemicals have the potential to explode if mixed with certain other chemicals, air or water and can result in death or permanent disability to people beyond a facility's property boundary.

New Jersey is the first state in the nation to propose requiring 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 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.

"History has shown that our residents need greater protections from the threat of hazardous chemical reactions in the industrial process," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "This is made more important due to past changes to the standards, which removed the requirement that all companies use the best technologies available to prevent future, deadly accidents."

The Napp and Morton International accidents were the result of reactive chemistry interactions. The infamous explosion at the Napp facility resulted in five deaths, 40 residents hospitalized, hundreds of residents evacuated and the mobilization of 900 emergency responders from 30 towns.

The federal Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, 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.

"Improving prevention plans to address the risks of reactives and to incorporate safer technology is good for business as well as for public safety," stated Commissioner Campbell. "I'm confident that New Jersey's companies share our interest in protecting our communities. This first-in-the-nation safety requirement should inspire similar action by states and businesses all across the country."

Currently, 105 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 also has proposed to list liquefied petroleum gas and its constituents as flammable extraordinarily hazardous substances. The amendments do not extend to propane retailers and users.

Approximately 40 additional companies are expected to become subject to the TCPA rules as a result of the proposed amendments because they use certain reactive chemicals or liquefied petroleum gas. Twenty-two companies currently regulated under TCPA are expected to have to comply with additional regulatory requirements for using the substances. These estimates include approximately nine facilities that likely will be regulated for liquefied petroleum gas, of which several already are in the TCPA program.

The most significant requirement proposed to be put back in the TCPA rules include the state of the art standard for risk reduction that was in place prior to 1998. The state of the art standard requires that the risk reduction plans developed by owners and operators reflect the most updated, cost-effective technologies available for minimizing the risk of catastrophic accidental releases. DEP also is proposing a state of the art standard for new processes when a facility expands or changes operations.

The goal of the TCPA program is to protect the public from catastrophic accidental releases of extraordinarily hazardous substances into the environment. TCPA rules require owners and operators of certain facilities to identify possible accidental release scenarios and evaluate risk reduction options to minimize the threat of a catastrophic release.

DEP worked with a group of industry, labor and environmental representatives to develop amendments to the current TCPA rules. The workgroup met three times during the summer of 2002, and again in November 2002 to discuss the Department's proposed changes.

DEP's proposed amendments to the TCPA rules were published in the February 18, 2003 New Jersey Register and posted on DEP 's website at DEP will hold a public hearing on the proposed amendments to the TCPA rules at 9:30 a.m. Monday, March 17, 2003 in DEP's Public Hearing Room. Public comments will be accepted until April 21, 2003.



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