Land-use Planning in Relation to Chemical Facilities and Associated Issues in the U.S.
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Low probability, high consequence events within the oil, gas and chemical industries can have devastating effects on employees, facilities, companies, and the surrounding communities. Incidents such as the Bhopal gas leak and the explosion in West, Texas highlight the need for preventative measures such as land-use planning (LUP). LUP is the process of analyzing and assessing potential hazards in facilities to mitigate the effects of such events by taking into consideration their impact when decisions are made concerning the siting of new facilities, modification of existing facilities and the proposal for new developments near existing facilities. Unfortunately, a method of best practice for LUP in the United States has yet to be identified. Implementation of LUP is complicated by various approaches, methodologies, government enforcement and factors that must be considered. Yet, it is clear that action is necessary to protect local communities and mitigate the effects of incidents at hazardous chemical facilities. LUP policies throughout the world have been implemented based upon the three main approaches of generic safety distances, consequences, and risks. Countries are actively practicing aspects of each approach, with the latter two used more extensively. Each approach and policy contains a unique set of pros and cons dependent upon the environment in which it is implemented. Evaluating current approaches, existing LUP policies and identifying the key elements of each are imperative to identifying possible improvements for the United States. Currently in the U.S. there are no federal regulations encompassing LUP for hazardous chemical facilities and the land surrounding them. The authority to regulate private land use has primarily been handed down to the local communities who have historically done very little to mitigating risks. There is a lack of regulations providing guidance for owners/operators of facilities, local communities, and governmental oversight in the event of LUP issues around hazardous chemical facilities. Jurisdiction confusion and the Fifth Amendment, among other factors, create hurdles for implementing and enforcing a LUP policy within the States. Economic diversity between the 50 states of the U.S. further complicates the issue. It would be hard-pressed to implement a single approach that works best for all states. Implementation and best practice of LUP in the U.S. may be a combination of existing approaches from other countries with built in flexibility that allows each state to choose what works best for them.
LUP in the U.S.
Major Accident Hazards
Marek, Jake Allen (2017). Land-use Planning in Relation to Chemical Facilities and Associated Issues in the U.S.. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from