“The explosion in the port of Beirut in August, which local officials concluded was caused by ammonium nitrate, serves as a reminder of the deadly power of this widely used chemical when it is recklessly stored or when there is insufficient oversight of its use,” Karen A. Cullinane writes in Law360. “Given the prevalence of ammonium nitrate in the U.S., the Beirut explosion therefore should prompt renewed scrutiny of regulations concerning the use and storage of this chemical here at home, as juxtaposed against its profitability and productive purposes.”
Karen, an associate in Goldberg Segalla’s Product Liability and Toxic Tort groups, explains in the article that ammonium nitrate is a primary chemical component of livestock manure that fertilizes farms across the nation and is linked to an increase in contaminated drinking water, leached land, and certain fatal cancers. She also notes that the Beirut disaster followed similarly fatal explosions involving ammonium nitrate stored and processed at chemical plants in industrial areas of the United States.
“This summer’s Beirut catastrophe immediately renewed calls for the U.S. federal to reinvigorate its oversight of ammonium nitrate, which has decreased in recent years,” Karen writes, pointing to the Trump administration’s decision at the end of 2019 to roll back the Chemical Disaster Rule, which had been finalized under the prior administration’s Environmental Protection Agency and dealt explicitly with ammonium nitrate explosions.
“Ammonium nitrate has helped America grow rapidly into a profitable agricultural and livestock giant, providing affordable food to the world. The country has reached a point, however, where a proper and reasonable balance, particularly in the context of federal oversight, must be struck between ammonium nitrate’s beneficial usage and the risks it poses to people and the environment,” she concludes. “Steps such as rolling back the Chemical Disaster Rule may be short-lived, as this is a presidential election year. Next steps at the federal level on this issue will likely be dependent on the outcome of the election.”
“Beirut Blast Shows Need To Review Ammonium Nitrate Regs,” Law360, October 15, 2020
Karen A. Cullinane focuses her practice on complex asbestos litigation, toxic tort matters, mass torts, product liability cases, and general commercial litigation. Karen represents national and international entities including chemical, manufacturing, and mining companies. Her legal experience includes successful precedent-setting motion practice ranging from precluding evidence and dismissing cases on dispositive motions to obtaining directed verdicts on punitive damages.