Southern Crop

Southern Crop

Court Sides with Ag Retailers on PSM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The D.C. Court of Appeals today ruled the Occupational Safety and Health Administration violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act when it issued an enforcement memorandum on July 22, 2015, redefining the “retail facility” exemption to the Process Safety Management Standard.

The Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute, which brought the suit to court, are pleased with the decision.

“OSHA made a bad decision in regulating ammonia in response to an ammonium nitrate incident, and the agency made that decision incorrectly,” said ARA President & CEO Daren Coppock. “Although ARA could only challenge on the procedural point and not the decision itself, we’re still very pleased to see the Court rule in our favor and to provide this relief to our members.”

Ag retailers are exempt from PSM until OSHA completes a notice-and-comment rulemaking process regarding PSM, which could take several years to finalize. ARA is currently reviewing the court’s decision and will provide additional analysis once our assessment is complete. For now, retailers can celebrate a victory on the legal front.

“It’s a big win. Given the significant economic costs and absence of any safety benefit, the court made the correct decision,” said ARA Chairman Harold Cooper. “The retail exemption has been in place for more than 20 years and OSHA should not have redefined it without an opportunity for stakeholders to comment.”

Cooper said this could have easily gone another way.

“As an industry, ag retailers tend to be complacent about regulations that come our way. We keep our heads down and do what’s required,” he said. “But this rule would have limited farmers and retailers options through an agency’s improper regulatory overreach. Thankfully, ARA was uniquely prepared and positioned to defend our industry. They gave us a vehicle to fight and win this battle.”

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