[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 78 (Friday, April 23, 2010)]
[Pages 21223-21225]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-9422]



[Docket No. CSB-10-01]

National Academy of Sciences Study

AGENCY: Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

ACTION: Notice and request for comments.


SUMMARY: The Fiscal Year 2010 appropriations legislation for the 
Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) provides funding 
for a study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to examine the 
use and storage of methyl isocyanate, including the feasibility of 
implementing alternative chemicals or processes and an examination of 
the cost of alternatives at the Bayer CropScience facility in 
Institute, West Virginia. With this notice, the CSB is outlining the 
scope of the study to be undertaken by the NAS and requesting public 
comments regarding the study.

DATES: Written comments must be received by the CSB on or before May 
10, 2010.

ADDRESSES: You may submit written comments, identified by docket number 
CSB-10-01, by either of the following methods:
     E-mail (preferred): [email protected]. Include CSB-10-01 
in the subject line of the message.
     Mail: Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, 
Office of Congressional, Public, and Board Affairs, Attn: D. Horowitz, 
2175 K Street, NW., Suite 650, Washington, DC 20037.
    Instructions: All comment submissions must include the agency name 
and docket number. All comments received, including any personal 
information provided, will be made available to the public without 
modifications or deletions. For detailed instructions on submitting 
comments electronically, including acceptable file formats, see the 
``Electronic Submission of Comments'' heading in the SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION section of this document. Comments received by the CSB will 
be posted online in the Open Government section of the CSB Web site, 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Daniel Horowitz, Director of 
Congressional, Public, and Board Affairs, at (202) 261-7613.



Bayer CropScience Incident

    On August 28, 2008, a fatal explosion and fire occurred at the 
Bayer CropScience (BCS) plant located in Institute, West Virginia. The 
explosion occurred during the restarting of the plant's methomyl 
production unit, when highly toxic and reactive methomyl waste was 
overloaded into a residue treater vessel. A violent runaway reaction 
ruptured the 5,000-pound vessel and sent it through the production 
unit, breaking pipes and equipment. The explosion and resulting 
chemical release and fire fatally injured two employees. Six volunteer 
firefighters and two others showed likely symptoms of chemical 
exposure. The blast wave damaged businesses thousands of feet away.

Congressional Testimony

    On April 21, 2009, John S. Bresland, Chairman of the CSB, testified 
before the House Energy and Commerce Committee regarding the CSB's 
ongoing investigation at the BCS site. Chairman Bresland testified that 
the CSB investigation had revealed significant lapses in process safety 
management. Plant operators had received inadequate training on a new 
computer control system, which was being used for the first time. 
Written operating procedures were outdated and could not be followed 
during startups, due to longstanding equipment problems. The heater for 
the residue treater was known to be undersized. This regularly forced 
operators to defeat critical safety interlocks during startups--
increasing the chance of dangerously overloading the treater with 
    Chairman Bresland also stated that the blast could have propelled 
the residue treater in any direction. About 80 feet from the original 
location of the treater, there was a 37,000-pound capacity tank of 
methyl isocyanate (MIC), which held 13,800 pounds of the highly toxic 
and volatile liquid on the night of the accident. Chairman Bresland 
announced that the CSB was further investigating whether this tank was 
located in a safe position and whether alternative arrangements to 
using or storing MIC had been considered at Bayer, or should be 
considered in the future.

Interim Public Meeting

    On April 23, 2009, the CSB investigation team presented its initial 
findings to the Board at a public meeting in Institute, West Virginia. 
In its presentation the CSB team stated that it planned to conduct 
further studies on how MIC was used and stored at the facility, in 
light of the preliminary findings.

Bayer Announcement

    In August 2009, Bayer officials announced a plan which they said 
would reduce both the maximum and the average inventory of MIC at the 
Institute site by approximately 80%. This would be accomplished in part 

[[Page 21224]]

eliminating the on-site production of two MIC-derived carbamate 
pesticides, and in part by restricting the inventory of MIC needed for 
producing two remaining pesticides. Bayer officials also stated the 
company would end the bulk storage of MIC in aboveground tanks, 
including the 37,000-pound capacity MIC tank that was near the August 
2008 explosion site. That tank, as noted in Congressional testimony in 
April, was exposed to potential projectiles and other hazards from the 

Congressional Appropriations

    On October 30, 2009, the President signed the Fiscal Year 2010 
appropriations legislation for the CSB. See Public Law 111-88, 123 
Stat. 2949. This legislation contained the following language regarding 
the CSB's ongoing investigation of the Bayer CropScience incident, 
``Provided further, That of the funds appropriated under this heading, 
$600,000 shall be for a study by the National Academy of Sciences to 
examine the use and storage of methyl isocyanate including the 
feasibility of implementing alternative chemicals or processes and an 
examination of the cost of alternatives at the Bayer CropScience 
facility in Institute, West Virginia.'' Public Law 111-88, 123 Stat. 

Proposed Study

    In order to accomplish the study called for by the CSB's 
appropriations legislation, the agency has drafted the following task 
statement for the NAS:
Proposed Task Statement for National Academy of Sciences Study on 
``Inherently Safer Chemical Processes: The Use of Methyl Isocyanate at 
Bayer CropScience''
    Public Law 111-88 (the Department of the Interior, Environment, and 
Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010) directs the Chemical Safety 
and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) to conduct ``a study by the 
National Academy of Sciences to examine the use and storage of methyl 
isocyanate including the feasibility of implementing alternative 
chemicals or processes and an examination of the cost of alternatives 
at the Bayer CropScience facility in Institute, West Virginia.'' \1\

    \1\ Congress appropriated $600,000 for conducting the study.

    The study is needed because of concerns about the potential for an 
airborne release of the chemical, which is highly toxic by inhalation 
and could adversely impact the health and safety of workers and the 
public in West Virginia's Kanawha Valley.\2\ Depending upon the 
progress of the study, the availability of funding, and other factors, 
the CSB may contract for a second, related study to examine inherently 
safer technology (IST) alternatives to other high-volume toxic 
chemicals used in industry.

    \2\ On December 3, 1984, the uncontrolled release of MIC from an 
underground storage tank at a Union Carbide pesticide manufacturing 
facility in Bhopal, India, killed thousands of residents and 
disabled or injured thousands of others.

    For a number of years, the Bayer facility in Institute \3\ has 
stored approximately 200,000 pounds of methyl isocyanate (MIC), which 
has been used as an intermediate to produce carbamate pesticides, 
including carbofuran, carbaryl, aldicarb, methomyl, and thiodicarb 
(Larvin). It is the only remaining site in the U.S. which manufactures 
and stores large quantities of MIC. In August 2009, one year after a 
serious explosion and fire near an aboveground MIC storage tank, Bayer 
announced a plan to reduce the maximum inventory of MIC at the 
Institute site by 80% and to eliminate aboveground storage of the 
chemical. This plan, which is currently being implemented, would leave 
approximately 40,000 pounds of MIC stored underground at the site on an 
ongoing basis. To achieve the inventory reduction, Bayer plans to use 
its existing carbamate manufacturing technology but to discontinue the 
production of two MIC-derived carbamate pesticides, methomyl \4\ and 

    \3\ The facility was constructed in the 1940's and was developed 
as a carbamate pesticide manufacturing complex by Union Carbide, 
which owned the facility from 1947-1986. Bayer CropScience acquired 
the facility in 2002.
    \4\ The methomyl production unit was heavily damaged in the 
August 2008 explosion. Bayer opted not to rebuild the unit but to 
begin purchasing methomyl from other sources and convert it into 
thiodicarb (Larvin) at the Institute site. The conversion of 
methomyl to thiodicarb does not use MIC.
    \5\ On December 31, 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection 
Agency revoked all tolerances for the pesticide, having determined 
that ``dietary, worker, and ecological risks are unacceptable for 
all uses of carbofuran.''

    The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study will focus on further 
risk-reduction opportunities, above and beyond the envisioned 80% 
reduction in MIC inventory. To perform the study, the NAS shall convene 
an expert panel with diverse representation, including individuals with 
industry, academic, community, environmental, and labor experience and 
backgrounds. The expert panel shall produce a detailed written report 
and recommendations on the following subjects:
    1. Review and evaluate the state of the art in inherently safer 
process assessments and implementation:
     Provide a working definition of Inherently Safer 
Technology (IST), as the term applies to the chemical industry and 
other process industries.
     Review and evaluate current practices for inherently safer 
process assessments, including the goals and applicability of these 
tools. Specifically, do existing methods adequately account for all the 
potential life-cycle benefits and risks from adopting inherently safer 
     Review and evaluate current economic valuation methods for 
estimating the cost of alternative chemicals and processes. 
Specifically, do these methods accurately estimate capital investment 
costs, operating costs, and payback periods?
     Review and evaluate current standards and metrics for 
measuring the effectiveness of inherently safer technology applications 
in the chemical and process industries.
     Review and evaluate the impact of existing State and local 
regulatory programs that seek to promote inherently safer processes, 
such as the Industrial Safety Ordinance in Contra Costa County, 
California, and the Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act in New Jersey.
     Provide guidance on best practices for inherently safer 
process assessments, metrics, and IST cost evaluation methods.
    2. Examine the use and storage of MIC at the Bayer CropScience 
facility in Institute, West Virginia:
     Review the current industry practice for the use and 
storage of MIC in manufacturing processes, including a summary of 
changes adopted by industrial users of MIC following the 1984 Bhopal 
     Review current and emerging technologies for producing 
carbamate pesticides, including carbaryl, aldicarb, and related 
compounds. The review should include:

--Synthetic methods and patent literature.
--Manufacturing approaches used worldwide for these materials.
--Manufacturing costs for different synthetic routes.
--Environmental and energy costs and tradeoffs for alternative 
--Any specific fixed-facility accident or transportation risks 
associated with alternative approaches.
--Regulatory outlook for the pesticides, including their expected 
lifetime on the market.

     Identify the best possible approaches for eliminating or 

[[Page 21225]]

the use of MIC in the Bayer carbamate pesticide manufacturing 
processes, through, for example, substitution of less hazardous 
intermediates, intensifying existing manufacturing processes, or 
consuming MIC simultaneously with its production. Examine these 
approaches using the best practices for inherently safer process 
assessment identified under Task 1.
     Estimate projected costs of alternative approaches 
identified above.
     Compare the inherently safer process assessments conducted 
by Bayer and previous owners of the Institute site with benchmarks 
established under Task 1.
    For each task, the NAS shall provide a monthly progress report to 
the CSB from inception to completion. The NAS should promptly notify 
the CSB of any problems encountered or other matters that require CSB 
    The principal deliverable item is a detailed written report of the 
expert panel addressing each point in Tasks 1 and 2, above. The report 
should be produced within 12 months of the initiation of the project. 
The panel may conduct public hearings in West Virginia, or elsewhere, 
as appropriate.

Questions for Public Comment

    1. Does the proposed Task Statement include the appropriate topics 
for consideration by the NAS? Are there any additional general or 
specific topics the NAS panel will need to consider in order to reach a 
satisfactory answer on the feasibility and costs of reducing the use 
and storage of MIC?
    2. If funds are available, should the CSB initiate a second, 
related study to consider the feasibility, costs, and benefits of 
inherently safer alternatives to other chemicals? For example, should a 
study consider alternatives to the use of hydrogen fluoride in refinery 
alkylation processes and/or to the use of chlorine in water treatment? 
What other chemicals or processes should be considered if a second 
study is undertaken?
    3. What kinds of backgrounds and expertise should be represented on 
the NAS panel?
    4. Is the proposed timetable appropriate?

Electronic Submission of Comments

    Electronic submission of comments is preferred. Comments should be 
submitted by e-mail to [email protected]. Comments may be submitted 
in the body of the e-mail message or as an attached PDF, MS Word, or 
plain text ASCII file. Files must be virus-free and unencrypted. Please 
ensure that the comments themselves, whether in the body of the e-mail 
or attached as a file, include the docket number (CSB-10-01), the 
agency name, and your full name and address.

    Authority: 42 U.S.C. 7412(r)(6)(F), (N); Pub. L. 111-88, 123 
Stat. 2950.

    Dated: April 19, 2010.
Christopher W. Warner,
General Counsel.
[FR Doc. 2010-9422 Filed 4-22-10; 8:45 am]