Agencies Issue Advisory on Ammonium Nitrate


On August 30, 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives (ATF) issued an Advisory on the explosive hazards of storing and handling ammonium nitrate.  It is part of an ongoing federal review of hazardous chemical safety and security triggered by congressional attention to the accidental explosion of ammonium nitrate at a fertilizer distribution facility in West, TX, and the subsequent issuance of a Presidential Executive Order (EO).  The Advisory updates a 1997 chemical safety alert on these hazards issued by EPA. 

The Advisory characterizes the chemical properties and ammonium nitrate and makes several recommendations for better storage methods, improved emergency planning and response efforts, and other actions that can be taken to avoid an accident.  It is not a substitute for EPA, OSHA, ATF or other agencies’ regulations.  The issuing agencies make clear that the Advisory may change in the future, as appropriate.

Upwards of 75 percent of ammonium nitrate is used in the manufacture of explosives.  IME is currently unaware of any accidental detonation of ammonium nitrate where existing federal regulations have been followed.  Nevertheless, with the hindsight of the West, TX tragedy, IME renewed recommendations to update current rules.  With this perspective, IME was asked to submit industry best practices and recommendations to the issuing agencies to assist in the drafting of the Advisory.  IME provided the requested Guidance  in July.  IME was disappointed that the issuing agencies failed to include a number of the recommendations submitted.  IME subsequently provided the agencies a markup document of editorial and substantive concerns with the Advisory.  We look forward to continuing to work with EPA, OSHA, and ATF as they perfect the Advisory and with other tasks mandated by the EO.