From: KTIC, 25 March 2016
As John Oehlerking was busy applying anhydrous ammonia Tuesday on his farm near Elmwood, Nebraska, he had more on his mind than the usual precautions and care typically given the fertilizer. Oehlerking wondered if he would even have access to the popular, and low-cost, nitrogen fertilizer in the future.
If the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) succeeds in changing the rules governing the storage and handling of anhydrous, some fertilizer retailers have said they’ll stop carrying it. While this would affect fertilizer retailers first, it also would also have a huge negative effect on farmers and Main Street, Oehlerking told DTN.
The retailer exemption from PSM rules is expected to end on Oct. 1. Originally, in a July 2015 announcement that it would end the PSM exemption, OSHA said retailers would fall under full rules at the end of that year.
On Dec. 18, buried in the 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Act, was a rider that forbid OSHA from requiring fertilizer retailers to comply with PSM regulations. The rider further required that OSHA conduct a formal rule-making process, complete with public comment period, before any change could be implemented. OSHA officials responded that the specifics of the exemption meant the agency did not have to follow Congressional dictates.
The courts have said we can make interpretations without going through the full regulatory process, Jordan Barab, OSHA deputy assistant secretary, told DTN. This is not regulatory change but an interpretation change. The agency plans to begin PSM enforcement activities Oct. 1, at the start of the 2016-17 government fiscal year.