OSM Accepts Wild Earth Guardians’ Petition for Rulemaking on NOx

On July 14, 2014 the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement (OSM) announced that it had received a petition for rulemaking from the Wild Earth Guardians (WEG) to regulate NOx from blasting more rigorously and invited the public to comment.

OSM received 119 comments on the petition, many supportive.  On February 20, 2015 OSM announced that it accepted the petition and would open rulemaking to “address this issue.”  OSM made it clear that it was not planning to address the issue as recommended by WEG.  OSM commented that their regulations were ambiguous in regards to the issue.  They claimed to need to clarify that endangering the public with toxic gasses from blasting is not tolerable.

That is beyond dispute.  No-one in the explosives industry can allow exposure of the public to any excessive risk from harmful effects from blasting whether they be fumes, flyrock, overpressure or vibration.

Let’s look at those so-called ambiguous regulations.

30 CFR Sec. 715.19 Use of explosives.

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(e) Blasting procedures–

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(2) Blasting standards.

(i) Blasting shall be conducted to prevent injury to persons, damage to public or private property outside the  permit area, adverse impacts on any underground mine, and change in the  course, channel, or availability of ground or surface waters outside the permit area.

Seems pretty straightforward and all inclusive, NOx blasting gasses considered.  Nonetheless, the regulation will be clarified.  We expect OSM to specifically list the known immediately harmful effects from blasting, vibration, overpressure, flyrock and fumes.

The degree of care expected of operators is another matter.  Cracks in concrete or windows and rocks on the highway are easy to identify and hard to cover-up.  But how does an operator ensure that toxic gasses have not left the property?  And what if those gasses are 1,000 feet in the air and rising?  Is that still a problem?

Hopefully OSM will follow the lead of other standards like NFPA 495 and not over-complicate the matter.

Chapter 11 Ground Vibration, Air Overpressure,
Flyrock, and Gases

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11.5 Gases. To minimize hazardous exposure from the gases produced by outdoor blasting, blasters shall do the following:

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(6) Monitor possible problem areas to determine if any gases have migrated from the blasting operation.

Every responsible blaster knows what they need to do in regards to blasting fumes and the last thing they need is another regulation to deal with.

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