Don’t expect a heavy legislative agenda in 2016 for ammonia refrigeration. The divisiveness of the presidential campaign on top of what was already a difficult political climate in Washington means pushing through any kind of legislation this year will be highly unlikely.
That’s the word from Lowell Randel, vice president of government and legal affairs, Global Cold Chain Alliance.
“It’s difficult to ‘make ammonia great again’ in an election year,” Randel said while speaking at a legislative update session of the 2016 International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR) Industrial Refrigeration Conference and Exhibition.
That doesn’t mean the trends aren’t moving in the right direction for ammonia and other natural refrigerants, he noted.
“The trend is definitely leaning toward more regulation of the hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants at both the national and international levels, and the natural refrigerants are being seen as strong alternatives when people are transitioning away [from HFCs],” Randel said.
EPA TARGETS FACILITY SAFETY
One area in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is likely to act in 2016 is on Executive Order 13650, “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security.” The order, issued by President Barack Obama in 2013, was done in response to a fatal explosion and fire at a fertilizer plant in Texas. The EPA recently published its rulemakings on the risk management program in the Federal Register.
The proposed updated rules have several risk management program (RMP) components on which IIAR is providing the perspective of the ammonia refrigeration industry. These include:
• Requiring a third-party audit after an accident;
• Requiring a “root cause analysis” after an accident or near accident;
• Closer coordination and training with first responders; and
• Improved information sharing with first responders and the community at large.
Randel said some of the proposals, such as enhancing coordination with first responders, make good sense, although there must be recognition that facilities that reach out to first responders in good faith should not be penalized if responders do not engage in return. Other aspects of the proposed rules, however, might benefit from some further thought.
Of most concern is the EPA’s call for an independent third-party audit within a year of a reportable incident. Randel noted many facilities already work with consulting firms that not only conduct safety audits but also provide other value-added services to facilities, such as advising them on their RMP programs. Under the current proposal, those personnel would be considered not independent. In addition, the EPA’s proposal calls for the independent audits to be led by a professional engineer.
“We’re really going to have to work with the EPA to determine who they consider to be ‘independent’ auditors,” Randel said. “I think restricting the audit team and making sure there’s a professional engineer leading it is not necessarily the types of restrictions that are most warranted. Auditor availability is an issue we think could be really problematic, and we’re going to be making some strong comments to the agency about that.”
Randel said other agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), are also looking at process safety management issues that will likely target some of the same issues as the EPA’s proposal. A particular area of IIAR’s focus with OSHA is formulating recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices (RAGAGEP).
“We are a leader in RAGAGEP, and there’s more we can do and are doing to communicate to OSHA and the EPA about what the RAGAGEP can and should be for our industry,” he said. “We need to fill that void before regulatory agencies do.”
WATCH FOR STIFFER OSHA FINES
OSHA fines, Randel warned, are increasing dramatically this year — in some cases up to 80 percent. IIAR reps expect to see an interim final rule on the new penalties in July with an effective date in August. Facilities with an open inspection that began within six months of the effective date for the new policy should be aware they may also be subject to higher penalties.
Facility operators also need to be aware that OSHA is looking at a new enforcement weighting system that de-emphasizes volume and prioritizes higher-value inspections.
“If it’s a significant case — $100,000 or more in fines — an inspector is going to get more credit for it,” Randel said. “So, if an inspector is going through your facility and racking up citations, and they’re getting close to $100,000, they’re going to probably try to find a way to get above that number so they can get more points. Be aware, because this system will create some challenges for facility operators.”
IIAR ENHANCES ITS SDO ROLE
Jeffrey M. Shapiro, president of International Code Consultants, also speaking at the legislative update, said IIAR and the ammonia refrigeration industry have many recent triumphs in the codes and standards arena of which to be justifiably proud. Foremost among these is IIAR’s enhanced role as a standards development organization (SDO) recognized by model code developers.
“It’s a badge of honor for IIAR to have this [SDO] credential,” Shapiro said. “It recognizes IIAR’s elevated status as a standards developer, and, more importantly, it cements IIAR’s legacy in the model codes, which is a huge accomplishment.”
Shapiro singled out the accomplishments related to ANSI/ IIAR 2-2014, “American National Standard the Safe Design of Closed-Circuit Ammonia Refrigeration Systems.”
The latest edition of IIAR 2 serves as both a standard and a code.
“Standards tell people how to do things; codes tell them what they have to do, and where they have to do it,” he said. “By being written as both a code and standard, IIAR 2 has evolved to a new level and positions it in a very positive way as an option in U.S. communities that don’t have model codes enacted. This change also positions IIAR 2 well for use in developing nations that don’t have national codes and standards about building construction.”
Other IIAR standards are also achieving broader acceptance as model code reference standards. Model codes now reference:
• The International Fire Code, 2018 edition, will recognize as mandatory standards IIAR 2; ANSI/IIAR Standard 7-2013, “Developing Operating Procedures for Closed-Circuit Ammonia Mechanical Refrigerating Systems,” and ANSI/IIAR Standard 8-2015, “Decommissioning of Closed-Circuit Ammonia Refrigeration Systems;”
• The International Mechanical Code, 2018 edition, will recognize as mandatory standards IIAR 2 as well as ANSI/IIAR Standard 3-2012, “American National Standard for Ammonia Refrigeration Valves;” ANSI/IIAR Standard 4-2015, “Installation of Closed-Circuit Ammonia Refrigeration Systems;” and ANSI/IIAR Standard 5-2013, “Start-up and Commissioning of Closed-Circuit Ammonia Refrigeration Systems.”
• NFPA 1 - Fire Code, 2018 edition, will adopt IIAR 2, 7, and 8;
• The Uniform Mechanical Code, 2018 edition, will recognize as mandatory reference standards and entirely defer regulation of ammonia refrigeration to IIAR 2, 3, 4, and 5; and
• The National Electrical Code, 2017 edition, will recognize for the first time an IIAR standard: IIAR 2 for the classification of areas containing ammonia refrigeration systems.
The inclusion in the electrical code is particularly noteworthy.
“The NEC is the electrical code in the entire U.S.,” Shapiro said. “It is the single model code document adopted in all 50 states. For IIAR to have a reference in the NEC is another great accomplishment for the organization.”
MOVING OUT OF ASHRAE’S SHADOW
Looking ahead, Shapiro said he is in the process of drafting a change to ASHRAE Standard 15 to completely defer ammonia refrigeration to IIAR 2.
“IIAR 2 stands alone,” he said. “IIAR 2 no longer relies on ASHRAE 15 to regulate ammonia refrigeration, and it’s time for ASHRAE 15 to add an exception that says, ‘For ammonia refrigeration, see IIAR 2.’”
In addition, work continues on the creation of IIAR 9, which is going to be IIAR’s embracing of the RAGAGEP concept.
“We are going to write our own standard to deal with how to regulate existing ammonia facilities,” Shapiro said. “Who better to decide what we should be doing in existing facilities than IIAR?”
He concluded that IIAR developing the ammonia refrigeration industry’s own standards and gaining recognition and acceptance of those standards by other organizations is the future of IIAR.
“You either establish your own destiny in the regulations or have someone else do it for you,” Shapiro concluded. “A few years ago, the IIAR and its board of directors made the difficult decision to focus on becoming an SDO instead of just providing guidelines to its members, and we are certainly reaping the benefits of that decision.”
Publication date: 6/6/2016