Mayor's Office Will Revisit Chemical Plant Safety Standards

In December 2004, a pressure vessel explosion at the Marcus Oil plant rocked southwest Houston. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigated and recommended the city adopt industry safety standards for pressure vessels as part of its building codes. It received no response.

This week, the board notified the city it was closing the file on the incident and labeling Houston’s lack of action unacceptable, the first time it had ever sent such a message to any government agency.

“The letter caught us all by surprise, and we’ve researched internally, ‘Was anybody else in the city aware of this going on?’ and no one was.”

Andy Icken is chief development officer of the City of Houston. He says the Construction Industry Council, which reviews the city’s building codes, had considered the Board’s recommendations but rejected them as overly broad.

“Now that we have received this letter, we’re going to take it back to the Construction Industry Council and ask for their reconsideration and see if, in fact, they would either adopt it at this time or consider a narrower interpretation of it. We’ll take their advice and then make a determination of whether we go back to City Council, which would have to change any of these regulations.”

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