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Feds propose chemical safety overhaul

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Ammonium nitrateThe 121-page plan calls for strengthened regulations at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as steps to protect chemical plants from the threat of a terrorist strike.

The task force, crafted by Obama via executive order and led jointly by OSHA, the EPA and the Department of Homeland Security, also proposes an array of new restrictions on ammonia nitrate, the volatile chemical involved in the West, Texas, blast.

In total, the plan lays out 10 proposed regulatory and policy changes, including technical steps to strengthen OSHA’s process safety management regulations and the EPA’s risk management plan.

The panel also calls for measures requiring congressional action, including a proposed amendment to the federal Safe Explosives Act and stiffer criminal penalties and fines for companies that skirt OSHA rules.

The report follows extensive discussions between federal officials and industry groups, first responders, unions, plant workers environmental organizations and communities near chemical plants. All sides agreed in principal on the need for improved safety.

“There was, however, no consensus about the role of government in the implementation of safer alternatives,” according to the report.

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