Press Releases, Uncategorized

One Year After Presidential Executive Order to Improve Chemical Plant Safety

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, July 31, 2014

 

One Year After Presidential Executive Order to Improve Chemical Plant Safety, Advocates Demand Faster Action

Coalition Calls on White House to Require Disaster Prevention Policies

Over one hundred organizations have advocated for more than a decade for common sense safety standards that would require high-risk chemical plants to use safer available alternatives to eliminate catastrophic hazards. Today is the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s Executive Order on Chemical Facility Safety and Security (E.O.13650), which directs federal agencies to modernize chemical plant safety and security policies. The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters released the following statement:

A year after the president signed an executive order to make our nation’s thousands of chemical plants safer to protect workers, first responders, and communities, very little has been accomplished. For example, the report to the White House from the executive order multi-agency Working Group postpones any new regulatory action for the next two and a half years (2016).

In April 2013, 15 people died and over 200 were injured when a fertilizer plant in West, Texas exploded, leveling an entire neighborhood and destroying schools. What happened at West is not unique; since the president took office, 75 people have died in chemical disasters.

The chemical industry, with their allies in Congress, has blocked reform at every turn. Now, for the first time in over a decade, our country has a chance to get it right.

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the Request For Information (RFI) in the Federal Register [http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/eo_improving_chem_fac.htm], which offers the public a chance to get involved and demand action.

The administration should move faster by using authorities it already has to implement new prevention-based regulations within the next 18 months (2015):

  • Put prevention first by requiring that chemical facilities use safer chemicals or processes wherever feasible;
  • Prioritize protection of the most vulnerable populations, including workers, nearby communities and first responders;
  • Modernize the OSHA Process Safety Management (PSM) standard, including continual safety improvements and the use of inherently safer technologies, and ensure that PSM facilities are registered in the EPA’s Risk Management Program;
  • Where safer processes are not available, enhance funding for emergency response, emergency planning, evacuation and possible relocation of impacted communities;
  • Ensure regular inspections of facilities, whistleblower protections for workers, and personnel surety provisions that protect workers’ rights.

Please contact the above-named people to reach labor, environmental justice, health, community and environmental leaders available to comment.

The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters is composed of over 100 environmental justice, labor, public health, national security, and environmental organizations united in a call for President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency to take action now to protect workers and fenceline communities through prevention.

CONTACT

Nick Sifuentes, BerlinRosen: 646-200-5321, nick@berlinrosen.com

Brian Gumm, Center for Effective Government: 202-683-4812, bgumm@foreffectivegov.org

Stephenie Hendricks, Coming Clean: 415-299-9510, stephdh@gmail.com

Jennifer Kim, New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (PIRG): 734-657-6959, jkim@njpirg.org

Joaquin Sanchez, EJHA/Los Jardines Institute: 917-575-3154, joaquin.sanchezjr@gmail.com

Erin Bzymek, BlueGreen Alliance: 202-706-6916, erinb@bluegreenalliance.org

Diana Ruiz, Greenpeace: 202-319-2495, diana.ruiz@greenpeace.org

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Blogs, Uncategorized

President Obama could make history with chemical safety & security reform

Cross posted from: http://greenpeaceblogs.org/2014/06/24/president-obama-make-history-chemical-security-reform/

Congress has debated chemical safety and security policy for twelve years and no action has been taken for reform on chemical security. However, over the last two years, the West, Texas chemical plant explosion; the toxic plume release at the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond, California and the chemical release in Charleston, West Virginia  illustrate the urgent need for change.

There are many lessons from these disasters and the inherent risks these facilities pose to workers and communities. But the most important lesson is that voluntary measures do not work.

After championing chemical plant safety in the Senate, President Obama promised to deliver on reform. Today his administration has a historic opportunity to protect millions of Americans from chemical disasters. The EPA has the authority to issue new rules that will ensure that high risk chemical plants switch to safer chemicals or processes that can actually eliminate the possibility of a disaster.

Report reveals 27 incidents since 2009

This June, an Interagency Working Group comprised of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report  to President Obama in response to his August 1, 2013 executive order (13650) directing  the EPA to  modernize  chemical plant safety and security policies.  The executive order was issued after the April 2013 explosion at the West, Texas fertilizer plant that killed 15 people and destroyed neighboring homes, schools and a senior nursing home.

Read the rest of the blog here: http://greenpeaceblogs.org/2014/06/24/president-obama-make-history-chemical-security-reform/

 

Press Releases, Uncategorized

Coalition Reacts to Interagency Report to the White House

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, June 6, 2014

Calls for Required Safeguards from Disasters Grow as Obama Administration Releases Report on Chemical Plant Safety and Security

Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters Releases Statement on Interagency Report to the White House on New Chemical Disaster Prevention Policies

 Over one hundred organizations have advocated for more than a decade for new safety standards at chemical facilities that would require high-risk plants to use safer available alternatives to eliminate catastrophic hazards. Today, an interagency working group composed of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released recommendations to President Obama in response to his August 1, 2013 executive order (13650), which directed them to modernize chemical plant safety and security policies. In response, the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters released the following statement:

While we are pleased the Working Group report included some of the recommendations made by the most endangered communities and workers, if the Obama Administration is serious about protecting workers and communities, the President must stand up for prevention requirements that include safer chemicals and processes. The people of West, Texas deserve better than the voluntary half-measures in today’s report. They, and millions of Americans like them, deserve real safeguards from the threat of chemical disasters that are adopted as enforceable requirements — not just voluntary recommendations that the industry can ignore until the next disaster. The true test of President Obama’s call to action will come with the EPA’s Request For Information (RFI), due to be issued in the federal register in the coming weeks.

The special interests that have blocked chemical facility disaster prevention policies for the last 30 years have had their way long enough. It is time for the President and federal agencies to move forward with strong and enforceable safeguards that prioritize the safety of the workers and communities most at risk.

We cannot wait for more disasters like West, Texas; Richmond, California; and Anacortes, Washington. Communities and workers should not be asked to put their lives and health at high risk one day longer than they already have.

The administration should move quickly by using authorities it already has to finalize the implementation of new prevention-based regulations within the next 18 months:

  • Put prevention first by requiring that chemical facilities use safer chemicals or processes wherever feasible;
  • Prioritize protection of the most vulnerable populations, including workers, nearby communities and first responders;
  • Modernize the OSHA Process Safety Management (PSM) standard, including continual safety improvements and the use of inherently safer technologies, and ensure that PSM facilities are registered in the EPA’s Risk Management Program;
  • Where safer processes are not available, enhance funding for emergency response, emergency planning, evacuation and possible relocation of impacted communities;
  • Ensure regular inspections of facilities, whistleblower protections for workers, and personnel surety provisions that protect workers’ rights.

The Coalition offered its specific recommendations to the interagency working group in a May 13 letter  calling on the Administration to put prevention and people first. Additional coalition policy recommendations can be found at:

http://preventchemicaldisasters.org/resources/epa-listening-session/

The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters is composed of over 100 environmental justice, labor, public health, national security, and environmental organizations united in a call for President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency to take action now to protect workers and fenceline communities through prevention.

Please contact the below-named people to reach labor, environmental justice, health, community and environmental leaders available to comment:

Nick Sifuentes, BerlinRosen: 646-200-5321, nick@berlinrosen.com

Erin Bzymek, BlueGreen Alliance:  202-706-6916, erinb@bluegreenalliance.org

Stephenie Hendricks, Coming Clean: 415-258-9151, shendricks@comingcleaninc.org

Brian Gumm, Center for Effective Government: 202-683-4812, bgumm@foreffectivegov.org

Michele Roberts, Environmental Justice and Health Alliance: 202- 704-7593, robertsmichele7@gmail.com

Rick Hind, Greenpeace: 202-413-8513, rhind@greenpeace.org

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Press Releases, Uncategorized

Environmental Justice and Health Alliance Statement on the Interagency Working Group Report

Environmental Justice and Health Alliance Statement on the Interagency Working Group Report on Chemical Facility Safety and Security

Contact: Stephenie Hendricks, Coming Clean
(415) 258-9151, shendricks@comingcleaninc.org

June 6, 2014

Chemical Disasters: Obama’s Task Force Announces Report Environmental Justice and Health Alliance Responds

It’s Time to Turn Words Into Action, Say Environmental Justice Leaders

(Washington, DC) This morning, the federal Interagency Working Group on Chemical Facility Safety and Security released its report to President Obama, which includes recommendations for actions to prevent chemical disasters like the April 2013 explosion in West, Texas that leveled an entire neighborhood. The recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) were finalized following an extensive stakeholder process including public Listening Sessions around the country.

The Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform (EJHA) mobilized its thirty-two affiliate organizations in 12 states throughout the stakeholder process to demand that the federal government prioritize the safety of the communities and workers most at risk of chemical disasters and adopt strong requirements to prevent disasters through transition to safer chemicals and processes that already exist.

EJHA leaders reacted to the White House announcement and the Interagency Working Group report by promising to continue to hold the Administration’s feet to the fire until their communities see results on the ground that make them safer.
Richard Moore, Co-Coordinator of the EJHA and former Chair of EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, said: “It’s clear that the Working Group listened to the voices of the communities and workers most at risk of chemical disasters. There are recommendations in their report that can help prevent disasters if they are enacted. But words are not enough. The Administration now has to turn these words into actions – into regulations that are adopted within the next eighteen months.”

Michele Roberts, Co-Coordinator of the EJHA, said: “We need the President and federal agencies to support the environmental health rights of all people, especially the 3.8 million Americans who live in the fenceline zones closest to the most dangerous facilities. These communities, where people live every day in danger, have populations with much higher percentages of Black, Latino, and low-income people than the U.S. as a whole. Today, 20 years after the signing of the presidential executive order on environmental justice, and 50 years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, again we see that race is still a factor. That said, our communities must be constantly engaged as partners during this entire process.”

Juan Parras, Director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services in Houston, where dozens of high-risk chemical facilities endanger tens of thousands of residents who are disproportionately Latino and African-American, said, “We have to get beyond the false hope that industry will voluntarily protect us. We need federal requirements for facilities to convert to safer chemicals and technologies, period. Our communities have already waited too long, through disaster after disaster. It’s time for real action before the end of this Administration.”

On May 1, the EJHA released its own recommendations for policies to prevent chemical disasters as part of a new report called Who’s in Danger? Race, Poverty, and Chemical Disasters, co-authored with Coming Clean and the Center for Effective Government. The report found that more than 134 million Americans live in the chemical disaster vulnerability zones of 3,433 of the most dangerous facilities, and that 3.8 million live in the fenceline zones closest to potential disasters. The populations of these most dangerous fenceline zones are much more Black, Latino, and low income than the U.S. as a whole.

The complete Interagency Working Group report can be found at: https://www.osha.gov/chemicalexecutiveorder/final_chemical_eo_status_report.pdf

The Who’s in Danger? report and related materials are available at: http://www.ej4all.org/whos-in-danger-report
Background materials on environmental justice and chemical disasters are available at: http://louisvillecharter.org/ChemicalSecurityandEJ.shtml

For a list of spokespeople available to comment – see more here: http://comingcleaninc.org/whats-new/ejha-statement-iwg-report#sthash.p7OltTOj.dpuf

Press Releases, Uncategorized

Press Statement from BlueGreenAlliance on Obama Administration Report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Erin Bzymek, erinb@bluegreenalliance.org, 202-706-6916

STATEMENT: Obama Administration Report on Executive Order on Chemical Safety Lays Groundwork to Keep Workers, Communities Safe

WASHINGTON, DC (June 6, 2014) – After the announcement of an administration report to President Obama on his Executive Order on Chemical Safety, Charlotte Brody, RN, Vice President for Health Initiatives for the BlueGreen Alliance, released the following statement:

“The report to President Obama contains all of the components to make American workers and communities safer and to reduce the potential for tragedies like West, Texas. Now we need the president to add a strong dose of urgency to match the size of the problem and to focus his administration’s efforts on a strong implementation plan.

“Millions of Americans live near or work in chemical facilities that pose a risk to their safety and health. The recommendations in the report could improve the health and safety of every one of them. So we thank the administration for today’s report on the president’s Executive Order and look forward to working together with them, and with Congress, to turn it into a safer and healthier reality for all Americans. ”

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The BlueGreen Alliance is a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the clean economy. Launched in 2006, the strategic partnership now brings together major U.S. labor unions and America’s most influential environmental organizations and unites more than 15 million members and supporters in pursuit of good jobs, a clean environment and a clean economy.

Visit www.bluegreenalliance.org. Follow us on Twitter (@bgalliance) and like us on Facebook (Facebook.com/bluegreenalliance).

Blogs, Uncategorized

President Obama A Broken Record on Preventing Chemical Disasters?

Crossposted from http://greenpeaceblogs.org/2013/10/21/president-obama-a-broken-record-on-preventing-chemical-disasters/

By John Deans, Greenpeace USA

With the media flurry since the West, TX explosion it would seem that chemical disasters are somehow a new issue. Yet, communities who live near these facilities and workers who operate them have lived with these dangers for decades. President Obama, too, has talked about the need for action on this issue since his early days in politics.  As early as his book The Audacity of Hope in 2006 he said “…let me suggest at least one area where we can act unilaterally and improve our sanding in the world – by perfecting our own democracy and leading by example. When we continue to spend tens of billions of dollars on weapons systems of dubious value but are unwilling to spend the money to protect highly vulnerable chemical plants in major urban centers, it becomes more difficult to get other countries to safeguard their nuclear power plants.”

Greenpeace is a supporter of The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters which has just released a video with some of these quotes and a call for the President to live up to his sentiments, watch and share:

Consistent with these quotes and the many others was his historic executive order issued on August 1, 2013. This order directs his agencies who deal with chemical plants to use current regulatory authority to come up with better solutions to prevent chemical disasters. It just so happens there is a solution consistent with the President’s long-standing position.

Read the rest of the blog here!

Press Releases, Uncategorized

Coalition Members React to Polling Results

Statements from Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters in Support of Administration and EPA Action on Chemical Plant Safety

October 11, 2013

 “In 2006, then-Senator Obama said, ‘We cannot allow chemical industry lobbyists to dictate the terms of this debate. We cannot allow our security to be hijacked by corporate interests.’ President Obama and his administration need to act now to increase the safety and security of our citizens here at home,” said Major General Randy Manner (ret.). “At least 100 million Americans are close enough to a chemical plant or storage facility to be at risk if an explosion or major incident occurs.”

“Over 10 years ago, we treated the wastewater at our plant with chlorine gas and we kept between 30-40 tons of it onsite,” said John Birkner, President, Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 534 and the mayor of Westwood, NJ. “Chlorine gas is deadly if it escapes, and in the one of the most densely populated areas of the most densely populated state in the country, that means tens of thousands of people’s lives were at risk if a chemical leak or explosion occurred. Today, we treat the water with diluted liquid bleach that disinfects the water but doesn’t have the risk of explosion or exposure to toxic chemicals.”

“Right after 911, The Texas Attorney General came to Houston and spoke to us and explained that of every category that qualifies as a terrorist target, Houston as at least one each of those terrorist targets. We have more fertilizer and chemical plants in our petrochemical corridor than anywhere else in the country.If a terrorist hits here, millions would die and millions more would become more sick than they are now from chemical exposure. I hope that President Obama comes up with a real policy that protects our community from the dangers of these chemicals,” comments Juan Parras, Texas Environmental Justivce Advocacy Services (TEJAS), Houston.

Continue reading

Press Releases, Uncategorized

New Poll Shows Strong Bipartisan Support for Federal Requirements to Prevent Chemical Plant Disasters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 11, 2013

CONTACT

Erin Bzymek, Blue Green Alliance,erinb@bluegreenalliance.org, 202-706-6916

Brian Gumm, Center for Effective Government, bgumm@foreffectivegov.org, 202-683-4812

Nick Sifuentes, BerlinRosen Public Affairs, nick@berlinrosen.com, 310-866-1692

New Poll Shows Strong Bipartisan Support for Federal Requirements to Prevent Chemical Plant Disasters

 

Coalition Calls on President Obama to Keep His Promise on Chemical Plant Safety

WASHINGTON D.C.– A diverse coalition of more than 100 health, labor, community, environmental justice and public interest organizations released a new national poll today showing that, in the wake of the West, Texas, chemical plant explosion, American voters strongly support new federal requirements to prevent disasters at facilities that store hazardous chemicals.

Community members, firefighters, facility workers, and others continue to suffer injury, death, and loss of homes, schools, and businesses from chemical disasters that could be avoided. The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters urged the Obama administration to adopt policies supported by the public – and long recommended by public health and safety experts and communities at risk – that would require chemical facilities to use safer chemicals and processes where available and affordable.

Every day, millions of people live and work in the shadow of 12,440 high-risk chemical plants that store and use highly hazardous chemicals with the potential to kill or injure thousands of workers and community residents. Eighty-nine of these facilities put more than one million people at risk. Safer, cost-effective chemicals and processes are widely available, and some facilities have already switched, but voluntary efforts are not enough – more than 100 million people are still needlessly at risk from preventable disasters.

The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners, Inc., found:

  • A majority of likely voters believes “the federal government should require chemical facilities to use safer chemicals and processes“when they are effective, available, and affordable. 55% of voters agreed and only 7% opposed the idea of new safety requirements.
  • Support for federal safety requirements increases with more information. When provided with additional information – that over 100 million Americans live in high-risk zones around chemical plants and that hundreds of plants have switched to safer chemicals – support for new federal requirements increases significantly to almost a two-thirds majority across all groups, including a majority of Republicans.
  • Attacks characterizing the proposal as an unnecessary regulation that would cost jobs and increase prices fall flat.
    • 59% of likely voters agree with the statementWe must do more to protect the safety and security of millions of Americans by requiring high-risk chemical facilities to switch to safer processes and chemicals when they are available, effective and affordable. 600 facilities have already done so, proving that businesses can be both profitable and safe.”
    • 22% of likely voters agree with the statementRequiring chemical facilities to switch processes is unnecessary government bureaucracy and too expensive. We cannot afford new burdensome regulations that cost businesses money, raise the prices of goods for consumers, and threaten to cut thousands of jobs.”

On August 1st, President Obama issued an executive order requiring three federal agencies to coordinate their activities to propose new policies that will significantly enhance the safety and security of chemical facilities. Under the order, the EPA and other agencies have until October 31st to identify new policy options and until May 1st of 2014 to report their recommendations to the president.

One potential policy was undertaken after 9/11. Many water treatment plants that had been using chlorine in gas form – a highly explosive chemical in that form to disinfect and ensure clean water – switched to the non-combustible liquid form of the chemical. Many of the plants that did not switch over started to store less of the gas on the premises, making it much safer and reducing the threat that terrorism could have posed to communities.

“The current administration, which is on record supporting these same disaster prevention policies in the context of security legislation, must not wait any longer,” said Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, former EPA Administrator, who proposed EPA-led chemical plant safety measures in 2002. “Reducing the vulnerability of these facilities to terrorism is not about politics – it’s about public safety. It’s both good policy and good politics for the Obama administration to act to secure the nation’s chemical plants now.”

The Coalition also announced the launch of a new website with new resources such as a citizens petition, interactive maps of high risk facility locations, President Obama’s record, letters from officials, internal EPA documents, in depth reports on hazards and safer alternatives, the coalition’s legal petition and correspondence with the Obama administration about the need for chemical facility requirements to use safer chemicals or processes.

The Obama administration has the authority to act now to enact stricter health and safety standards at chemical plants under the Clean Air Act; in fact, the EPA has more authority than any other agency to require safer chemical processes in order to prevent disasters.

For additional statements from Coalition spokespeople and leaders, please visit http://www.preventchemicaldisasters.org. Please note that community residents, firefighters, and chemical safety and security experts are available for in-depth interviews. The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters’ new website also contains many resources, including a July 2012 petition to the EPA.

The polling was performed in August by Lake Research Partners, a copy can be found on their site here: http://lakeresearch.com/news/ChemSafety/release_Chemical_Facility_Omnibus_100813.pdf

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The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters comprises more than 100 health, labor, environment, environmental justice, public health and public interest organizations who are calling on the Obama Administration to Improve chemical facility safety and security and require chemical facilities to use safer chemicals and processes where available and affordable. For more information, visit http://preventchemicaldisasters.org.