North Dakota officials are fighting a recent policy change by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration affecting anhydrous ammonia fertilizer dealers, while at the same time preparing to help retailers should those efforts fail.
The state Agriculture Department is holding a free seminar at Mandan's Baymont Inn on Nov. 12 to explain the requirements for facilities under the policy change, which regulates retailers under the same standards as manufacturers.
The change was made due to a deadly ammonium nitrate explosion at a facility in West, Texas, in 2013, the Bismarck Tribune reports. The blast killed 15 people and leveled part of the town.
North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring says the OSHA policy change will bury companies in paperwork. The change will affect 275 North Dakota facilities, while only eight facilities were covered by the rule previously.
"We still feel this policy is unnecessary and excessive," Goehring said in a statement. "It will impose tremendous costs to agriculture without any clear benefit to worker or public safety."
Eric Delzer, fertilizer specialist with the state Agriculture Department, said efforts against the rule change include a lawsuit by the Agricultural Retailers Association and the Fertilizer Institute. Members of Congress are also pressuring OSHA to go through formal rulemaking procedures instead of treating it as a change that doesn't need public comment.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., has joined other legislators in sending a letter urging U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to reverse the changes.
"This regulation does nothing to improve safety and puts an unfair regulatory burden on small agriculture retail facilities," Cramer said in a statement.
A six-month extension on the change was recently announced by OSHA. It's set to take effect July 22.