ARA testifies at hearing on West Fertilizer

Published online: Sep 19, 2013
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Paul Derig, environment, health and safety (EHS) manager with J.R. Simplot, testified on behalf of the Agricultural Retailers Association at a House Subcommittee hearing titled, "West Fertilizer, Off the Grid: The Problem of Unidentified Chemical Facilities."

Witnesses at the hearing presented their testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies. ARA appreciates the additional agricultural industry representation provided by Donnie Dippel, president of the Texas Ag Industries Association, who also testified at the hearing.

Derig brought a unique perspective to the hearing as an EHS manager responsible for oversight of regulatory programs for J.R. Simplot's agricultural retail operations and his more than 30 years of past experience in fertilizer handling and security. This past experience also includes his work as a first responder, firefighter and National Fire Academy Instructor. "Because of the many roles that I have been able to play, I understand the importance of safety and security in the public and private sectors," Derig stated in his testimony.

Derig made the following key points in his testimony on behalf of ARA and the ag retail industry.

1. He explained ResponsibleAg, a new member-led performance management system that will establish foundational Environmental, Health and Safety & Sustainability (EHS&S) practices with a third-party inspection program.

2. Derig also emphasized the need  for permanent Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) or long-term reauthorization of the CFATS program needed for regulatory certainty.

3. On behalf of ARA, Derig also recommended the following enhancements to both the CFATS program and the Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer Registration Program:

A. Re-evaluating the Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer Registration Program

B. Targeting unidentif ied chemical facilities through intergovernmental and industry cooperation.

C. Re-evaluating its "partnership" model to develop better cooperation between the public and private sector. The Executive Order issued by President Obama clearly shows this need.

D. Raising "partnership" outreach with industry. ARA's past industry outreach efforts coordinated with other organizations, including the FBI, EPA, DOD, the National Fire Protection Association and the First Responders Organization.

E. Reassessing CFATS small facility compliance burdens.

ARA applauded the current DHS leadership in making great strides in reforming the current CFATS program and outreach efforts but noted much more needs to take place as Derig explained in the outlined points.

ARA has been working closely with federal and state agencies to further educate and provide services to support agricultural retailers in their quest to maintain regulatory compliance and a prof itable business, while serving America's farmers. ARA recently hosted a retailer tour to educate congressional staff and regulators on the importance of how ag retailers operate after the West Fertilizer accident.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspectors, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulators, congressional staff, Maryland Off ice of Plant Industries and Pest Management and former chair of the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) toured the facilities of CPS, Growmark and Willard Agri-Service.

ARA continues to monitor the situation in West and is coordinating with regulators and other industry allies on working toward improved safer fertilizer handling and is actively involved in additional steps that might be necessary to prevent similar incidents in the future.