Also in January 2011, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said he supported the program, but feared it would face significant political hurdles.
"It's going to take the support of the Legislature and it's going to take the support of the industry," Carper said. "The problem will be gaining unified support between industry, the public and government."
A few months later, in June 2011, then-DHHR Secretary Michael Lewis told the CSB that his agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection had decided not to move forward with the CSB recommendation.
"We came to a consensus that we did not, at this time, have the expertise in-house to draft the appropriate legislation that would be needed to develop the type of program suggested in your report," wrote Lewis.
Lewis said that his agency would approach the governor's office and see if lawmakers would study the issue.
It was not immediately clear over the weekend what happened to that potential study - but DHHR has not moved forward with a chemical accident prevention plan of any kind,and the CSB lists the recommendation on its website as "open."
Industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council, had opposed the CSB recommendation, saying it would "create unnecessary redundancies, as well as the imposition of additional economic burdens on local industries, communities and state governments."
"Given the existing federal agency oversight with mandated industry regulations, we contend the West Virginia environment is better served through effective execution and compliance oversight by the current agencies," wrote Karen Price, who was then president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, in a letter to the CSB.
CSB officials, though, noted that inspections at local chemical plants by federal officials are rare - the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration hadn't inspected DuPont's Belle plant for more than five years when the fatal phosgene leak occurred in January 2010, for example.
OSHA had never inspected the Freedom Industries location, and the state DEP hadn't been there since 1991, when it was a different sort of facility owned by a different company, officials have said.
On Saturday, CSB officials announced -- under pressure from Carper and from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., -- that they were deploying a team to Charleston to investigate the Freedom Industries chemical accident.
But in email interviews over the weekend, CSB officials said they were being cautious about drawing too many conclusions yet about connections between their chemical safety recommendations and the latest Kanawha Valley chemical accident.
Daniel Horowitz, the CSB's managing director, said the focus on the previous recommendation was on what he called "highly hazardous chemicals" such as those involved in the deadly Bayer and DuPont incidents.
"It would have to be determined through further investigation what are [the] hazards of the materials at terminal and storage sites like Freedom Industries, what kinds of regulatory and inspection programs are in place, and what are the opportunities for preventing this sort of serious incident in the future," Horowitz said.
But, while the CSB recommendation did specify "highly hazardous" chemicals, it also said that once the program was started, local experts and citizens could work together to "define the characteristics of chemical facilities that would be covered."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.