From Ohio Fire Chiefs' Association:
First Responders Have Access to Necessary Chemical Information
On behalf of the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association, I respond to an article that appeared on Bob Downing’s Ohio Utica Shale blog on September 13. The article referenced a forum being hosted in Bowling Green for the community and first responders claiming that the oil and gas industry is exempt fromthe federal Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA).
On any given day, a first responder in Ohio could be called to an incident that may include a leak or spill of some chemical substance at an emergency location. The priority for all first responders is to first ensure their personal safety and the safety of others directly involved with the incident, including the surrounding inhabitants. To meet that obligation, Ohio first responders are trained to react to all such incidents using a standardized approach, whether the chemical is used to process drinking water, keep a swimming pool safe, preserve milk and other food products, or used in the exploration, drilling, and production of natural gas and crude oil. The idea that a first responder would not have the information necessary to properly respond with respect to those chemicals – which some environmental groups would have you believe – is simply not true.
The fact is first responders have ready access to that information, even remotely when necessary. Among the tools first responders have available are:
· CHEMTREC, a resource call center established by the American Chemistry Council in 1971, which is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day to request assistance with a spill or leak. CHEMTREC maintains a database of 4 million plus safety data sheets to assist first responders, as well as a database for specialized spill response companies, and access to MEDTREC, which is staffed by physicians and toxicologists to provide guidance on how to treat patients exposed to leaking or spilled hazardous materials.
· The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas Resource Management website, which provides a link to safety data sheets, listed by company, for all chemicals used in the exploration, drilling, and production of natural gas and crude oil in Ohio.
· And the U. S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Emergency Response Guidebook, which is one of the most highly-regarded tools for assisting all first responders. It contains specific color coded guides which correspond with essential information needed to handle a situation early on.
First responders in Ohio also have available to them resources from the Ohio Fire Chiefs Emergency Response System, county and state Emergency Management Agencies, Ohio EPA, and other emergency agencies. Moreover, over 1,000 local Ohio firefighters, along with firefighters from seven other states, have received training from the country’s first oilfield firefighter training program, created by the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program just for these circumstances: Responding to Oilfield Emergencies.
Nor is it true that first responders cannot access information on “trade secret” chemicals used in the exploration, drilling, and production of natural gas and crude oil. The “trade secret” is only the “recipe” used by specific companies, and does not exempt companies from identifying the chemicals used in their operations under state and federal laws when necessary to protect human health. Ohio statutory changes in SB 315, for example, expressly require chemical disclosures to first responders in order to treat people impacted by an incident at an oil and gas site – even where the chemical might otherwise have “trade secret” protection.
The fact is, the chemicals used in the exploration, drilling and production of natural gas and crude oil consist of many of the same compounds we use in our everyday lives. They include sodium chloride, otherwise known as table salt; ethylene glycol, commonly used in water based paints, drywall, and household cleaners,borate salts, which are used in cosmetics; sodium potassium carbonate, which we see in detergents; guar gum, which we eat in ice cream; and isopropanol, which we use in deodorant. And even where the chemicals used in the oil and gas industry are not regulated because they are not considered hazardous, we have access to safety data sheets for them.
Ohio’s natural gas and crude oil industry has invested heavily in educating and training first responders how to safely and responsibly react in the event of a spill or leak at an oil and gas site, and to provide specialty resources when needed for safe and efficient operations to respond when necessary (to date, more than $2 million). With that assistance, and their own specialized training, hard work, and dedication, Ohio’s first responders stand ready to assist when the call comes.
Brent Gates – Director at Large
Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association
Board of Director
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