Some local MFA terminals were among those mentioned in a recent Environmental Protection Agency/Department of Justice consent decree.
The Centralia, Clark and Mexico terminals are among those listed regarding a new emergency shut-off system.
According the DOJ/EPA news release:
“The alleged violations relate to the companies’ management of anhydrous ammonia at nine Missouri facilities, which have a combined inventory of more than 4.3 million pounds of the chemical. Under the settlement agreement, MFA will assure that its accident prevention program complies with all applicable Clean Air Act requirements, will install emergency shutoff equipment at 53 facilities, and will pay a civil monetary penalty of $850,000.
“Accidental releases of anhydrous ammonia fertilizers can be extremely dangerous. When it is used and stored properly, it helps the local agriculture industry meet the needs of our communities, and be competitive in the marketplace,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford. “This settlement ensures the rule of law is being followed by MFA, and that it is working responsibly to protect the communities and its workers where each of these facilities is located.”
“This settlement will protect the communities surrounding MFA facilities by helping to prevent releases of harmful chemicals,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “By bringing MFA facilities into compliance with the Clean Air Act, this agreement will also substantially improve the maintenance and emergency systems that keep MFA workers safe.”
One industry observer familiar with the situation said there was more to the situation than mentioned in EPA and DOJ news releases.
Along with some other knowledgable folk known to drink coffee on Saturday mornings within sight of some big commercial grain elevators, he said MFA’s size may have attracted some attention and being Missouri based, instead of out of state or out of country may have made it “the low-hanging fruit,” or “squeaky wheel,” in the farm chemical business.
The concerns listed in the consent decree, were not at one single location, but at several from around the state.
When it comes to selling and storing chemicals and fertilizer, such as anhydrous ammonia, some observers question if some farmer-salesmen and small businesses would still be in business if they had to follow the same regulations imposed on MFA. That included, one observer said, firms based outside of Missouri and in Canada. “MFA has competition that does not fall underneath the same regulatory footprint as they do. Non-Missouri based companies are not getting regulated in the same way.”
That included, he said, some farmer-owned tanks whose use is not at all regulated.
Which does not matter when a business is caught between two regulatory agencies.
Observers from the sidelines familiar with the situation, said the Centralia MFA site followed ANSI standards when it came to storage standards. “They were legal by ANSI standards and now they are overregulating themselves to appease the EPA.”
Besides upgrades such as the hose and valve replacements, those changes included, a remote shut-off system by which the entire Centralia plant could be shut down, a remote stop-button transmitter that can be worn by employees one source said.
According to the EPA those will be installed at nine MFA locations.
“Yes it’s better and safer. But is it required of every anhydrous plant Missouri? Absolutely not… Different standards for different people. Nobody said the regulations won’t make things safer. But not regulating everybody equally is a detriment to the market, the industry and the consumer. That company was targeted for this. It sounds like they have overregulated themselves to satisfy the EPA and get this behind them.”
According to the EPA, as part of the agreement, MFA will install emergency electronic shutoff systems at no fewer than 53 of its facilities. The electronic shutoff systems must include emergency stop buttons and a remote stop transmitter, which can be worn by an employee to reduce response time to a potential release. The systems are designed to close all shutoff valves and shut down liquid and vapor pumps facility-wide. The estimated cost to implement these systems is about $400,000.
For the complete article, please see this week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard.