In response to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and
Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new chemical
facility alert, the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters issued the
Yesterday’s alert from the EPA & OSHA will not protect workers or communities
from chemical disasters. Two years after the fatal West, TX fertilizer
explosion, we need more than voluntary measures and recommendations.
Allowing the chemical industry to police itself has proven woefully
ineffective in the past. For example, an EPA alert on chemical facility
safety issued in February 2000 did little more than remind companies of
their legal obligation to prevent catastrophic releases. And just since
the West, TX tragedy in 2013, there have been over 350 chemical
accidents resulting in 79 deaths and 1,500 hospitalizations.
Our Coalition, which is composed of over 100 environmental justice,
labor, public health, national security, and environmental organizations
has called on President Obama since June 2011 to honor his 2008 pledge
to issue enforceable regulations to prevent tragedies like the disaster
in West that killed 15 people and injured over 200. President Obama has
a historic opportunity to protect the more than 100 million Americans
(including one in three schoolchildren) at risk of a chemical disaster
and fulfill his oath of office.
President Obama issued an executive order (13650) on Aug. 1, 2013
directing agencies to modernize their regulations in the wake of the
West tragedy, but they have not issued any new requirements to prevent
chemical disasters. EPA is the federal agency with the greatest
authority to issue new chemical facility safety rules, yet the agency
has delayed proposing new regulations until September 2015.
Typically, an EPA rule can take 12-15 months to finalize. In a March 19
letter to President Obama, the Coalition warned that waiting until
September “will jeopardize finalizing a rule before you leave office….
To ensure that new rules do take effect, they must be finalized well in
advance of the end of your administration’s term in office.”
Following a May 2, 2014 meeting with the EPA, OSHA, and the Department
of Homeland Security (DHS), the Coalition sent the agencies a letter
urging them to implement new, prevention-based regulations within 18
Implement primary prevention policies that require chemical facility
owners and operators to use safer chemicals or processes wherever
feasible to prevent disasters
Prioritize protection of the most vulnerable populations, including
workers, fenceline communities, and first responders
OSHA should modernize its Process Safety Management (PSM) standard,
including continual safety improvements, the use of inherently safer
technologies, and it should ensure that its PSM facilities are also
included in the EPA’s Risk Management Program
Enhance funding for emergency response, emergency planning, evacuation,
and possible relocation of impacted communities when safer chemicals and
processes are not available
Ensure regular inspections of facilities, whistleblower protections for
workers, and personnel surety provisions that protect workers’ rights
while avoiding duplicative mandates.
Brian Gumm, Center for Effective Government
Rick Hind, Greenpeace
Carli Jensen, U.S. Public Interest Research Group
Eric N. Whalen, Coming Clean
Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters:
Chronology of the EPA “Considering” Chemical Disaster Prevention:
1995 “EPA does not favor inclusion of a specific requirement in the
initial program for an analysis of the inherent safety of processes…EPA
is considering further study of this issue with all stakeholders and
requests comment on this issue.”
2002 Following the 9/11 attacks, EPA Administrator Christine Todd
Whitman proposed regulations in 2002 following the 9/11 attacks but they
were scuttled by the Bush White House. She has since urged Obama to
issue new safety rules.
2009 Peter S. Silva, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water, testified in
favor of requirements to use inherently safer technologies(IST) also
known as safer chemical processes.
2010 Cynthia Dougherty, EPA’s Director of the Office of Ground Water and
Drinking Water of the Office of Water testified in favor of requirements
to use inherently safer technologies (IST) also known as safer chemical
2011 Rand Beers, Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary
testified in favor of requirements to use safer technologies (IST) also
known as safer chemical processes.
2012 EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council recommended
that the “EPA use its authority under the 1990 Clean Air Act section 112
(r) to reduce or eliminate these catastrophic risks, where feasible, by
issuing new rules and guidance…”
2012 EPA says they will address a petition from 54 organizations urging
that they use their Clean Air Act authority to require inherently safer
2013 President Obama issued Executive Order 13650 giving federal
agencies such as the EPA, DHS and OSHA nine months to propose ways to
modernize their chemical facility safety and security policies.
2014 In a multi-agency report to the President the EPA pledged to
complete new regulations by 2016 including possible requirements for
inherently safer technologies (IST)
2015 EPA plans to issue “proposed” regulations in September 2015 with
the expectation of completing them in 2016.