Happy Hump Day,
TOP OF THE NEWS
OSHA finally manages to get over the hump and issue new cranes and derricks rules. OSHA boss Dr. David Michaels will provide the details in a telephone media briefing at 1:30 pm this afternoon. OSHA says the “historic new rules addressing the safety of cranes and derricks in construction” will be issued today.
RALLYING FOR TSCA OVERHAUL
A coalition of environmental health advocates is gearing up for a major overhaul of federal toxic chemical legislation, following last week’s introduction of a bill to reform the 34-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The coalition is running ads in today’s Politico and Roll Call featuring a young family as unwilling subjects in a chemical experiment. In addition, tomorrow a hearing will be held in the House Energy & Commerce Committee about TSCA reform, followed by a rally on the mall highlighting the links between toxic chemicals and serious diseases such as cancer, autism and asthma.
“Now is the time to reduce the burden of cancer, learning disabilities and other chronic health problems in this country,” said Andy Igrejas, Director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition. “Scientists and health professionals have pointed the way, but now it is up to Congress to crack down on toxic chemicals.”
MASSEY MINE BOSS BITES BACK
Massey Energy Co. Chief Executive Officer Don Blankenship, whose company owns the West Virginia coal mine where 29 people died in April, said last week U.S. regulation of the industry is excessive.
“The feeling of the industry is that we’re regulated too much and not too little,” Blankenship said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “InBusiness.” “Tragedies lead to more regulation.”
Blankenship, 60, said increased scrutiny from MSHA puts miner safety at risk because the coal industry’s engineers are better than the government’s.
“It basically comes down to engineers that work for the company that we believe are more technically competent than those that work for the government,” he said.
The costs will include $80 million to $150 million for benefits for families of the miners, rescue and recovery efforts, insurance deductibles, legal and other contingencies, the company said in April in its first-quarter earnings statement. The value of the damaged equipment, development and mineral rights is an additional $62 million, the company said.
BP BIDES CEO ADIEU
BP announced yesterday the appointment of U.S.-born Robert Dudley as chief executive officer and pledged to accelerate asset sales to as much as $30 billion after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill led to a record loss.
The second-quarter net loss of $17.2 billion compared with a profit of $4.39 billion in the year-earlier period. Dudley will take over from Tony Hayward on Oct. 1, the London-based company said in a statement.
Dudley’s challenge will be to overcome cleanup costs and liabilities after the company booked a pre-tax charge of $32.2 billion related to the leak. BP is selling assets over the next 18 months, reducing investment and cutting the dividend to pay the bills after the spill wiped 45 billion pounds ($70 billion) off the company’s market value, according to Bloomberg News.
“For the good of BP, especially in the U.S., it’s the right thing to step down,” Hayward said in a conference call with reporters today. “Whether we dealt with the politics appropriately I’ll leave others to judge,” he said.
YOU CAN’T DRILL HERE
Oil companies with poor safety records would be blocked from new U.S. offshore leases under a proposal by House Democrats to rewrite drilling rules after BP Plc’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to Bloomberg News.
A 238-page bill that lawmakers presented yesterday calls for tougher safety standards for drillers operating on federal leases in the Outer Continental Shelf, and gives Congress direct oversight of offshore energy production.
The American Petroleum Institute, an oil industry group, said that lawmakers are acting before the cause of the disaster is known, imposing penalties that would raise energy prices and kill jobs.
Legislators called the bill a necessary response to the spill that began April 20 after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig leased by BP.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, plans to release the Senate’s spill response bill this week.
Both House and Senate versions would scrap the Minerals Management Service, the Interior Department agency responsible for energy production on federal leases, and replace it with new agencies to ensure that revenue collection is kept separate from oil and gas leasing, environmental protection and safety decisions.
RAMPING UP EHS CAPACITY
TO MEET INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY
The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has partnered with General Electric and The Phylmar Group, a Los Angeles-based environmental health and safety consultancy, to launch a pilot course that was successfully completed in Shanghai this month. Twenty five employees from major multinational corporations including Converse, Nike, ITT and GE completed the course, which was directed by Mark Katchen, Managing Principal of The Phylmar Group and a former Chair of the AIHA's International Affairs Committee.
The course is part of a new international initiative designed to rapidly train EHS technologists in developing regions where there is currently little EHS expertise. Demonstrating the importance of such a course in China, Yu Jie, Vice Secretary General of the China Occupational Safety and Health Association, flew from Beijing to attend the inaugural course.
“With only 13 certified industrial hygienists in all of China, it is practically an international emergency that we train and recruit more professionals in the field of environmental health and safety,” said Mark Katchen, who directed “The Measurement of Hazardous Substances” in Shanghai June 28-July 2, 2010. The course is the first of seven training modules that are part of an international program to quickly train EHS personnel in industrial hygiene.
"The need to build global professional capacity through education and training is vitally important to the EHS field at a time when corporations worldwide are recognizing the need to adhere to higher corporate social responsibility and safety standards," said Carol Tobin of the AIHA. "We are pleased with the overwhelmingly positive response to this first course and are proud to partner with The Phylmar Group and GE in this high-caliber series of training modules."
DANGERS OF DRIVING ON MEDS
The New York Times reports an “accident that killed Kathryn Underdown had all the markings of a drunken-driving case. The car that hit her as she rode her bicycle one May evening in Miller Place, N.Y., did not stop, the police said, until it crashed into another vehicle farther down the road.
“The driver could not keep her eyes open during an interview with investigators, according to the complaint against her, and her speech was slow and slurred. But the driver told the police that she had not been drinking; instead, the complaint said, she had taken several prescription medications, including a sedative and a muscle relaxant.
“She was charged with vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of drugs â€” an increasingly common offense, law enforcement officials say, at a time when drunken-driving deaths are dropping and when prescriptions for narcotic painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, sleep aids and other powerful drugs are rampant.”
The Times reports “there is no reliable data on how many drivers are impaired by prescription drugs, but law enforcement officials say the problem is growing so quickly that states are putting hundreds of police officers through special training to spot signs of drug impairment and clamoring for better technology to detect it.
“Tara Jenswold-Schipper, an assistant attorney general in Wisconsin, said she usually stuck to cases where drivers had mixed drugs, exceeded the proper dose or taken controlled medications without a prescription.
“In one such case in that state, a former physician slammed his S.U.V. into a Honda Accord in April 2008, killing the pregnant driver and her 10-year-old daughter. Prosecutors said the physician, Mark Benson, had high levels of the sleep aid Ambien in his system, as well as Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, and oxycodone, an opiate painkiller. Mr. Benson was sentenced to 30 years in prison.