Poll Shows Bi-Partisan Support for New Rules to Prevent Chemical Disasters
But Will EPA Fall Short?
(Washington DC—October 8, 2015)— As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers new chemical plant safety rules, a new national survey of likely 2016 voters shows strong support among Democrats, Republicans and Independents for policies that would eliminate catastrophic hazards.
Strong majorities across gender, age, race, partisanship, and region support new requirements to use safer chemicals and processes. Overall 79 percent of likely voters support these new requirements and only 17 percent oppose them:
- Democrats: 88 percent support, 76 percent strongly
- Independents: 77 percent support, 60 percent strongly
- Republicans: 70 percent support, 49 percent strongly
Since the deadly 2013 West, Texas fertilizer disaster 82 people have been killed and 1,600 injured in over 400 chemical plant incidents. According to facility reports to the EPA, over 100 million Americans still live in chemical hazard zones. In addition to putting facility employees at risk, communities closest to hazardous facilities are disproportionately African American and Latino.
In an October 8th letter to President Obama, leaders of the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters cited the new polling results and warned the President that his August 2013 Executive Order (#13650) directing EPA and other agencies to modernize their regulations has yet to yield new safety regulations.
In their letter to the President the groups said:
“We fear that the EPA may fall far short of the prevention policies you advocated for in the Senate, and the principles your administration advanced on Capitol Hill. Primary among those principles were requirements to use safer chemical processes or inherently safer technologies (IST) where feasible.”
“It is essential that the EPA make cost-effective inherently safer technologies (IST) requirements an integral part of any revision of its Risk Management Program (RMP) to eliminate the many catastrophic hazards faced by workers and communities across the U.S.
The groups also reminded the President that cost-effective safer alternatives are widely available (eg., Washington, D.C.’s waste water treatment plant and all U.S. Clorox facilities have converted), but new requirements are needed to ensure their use.
The poll was done by Lake Research Partners on behalf of the BlueGreen Alliance, Center for Effective Government, Communications Workers of America, Greenpeace, Union of Concerned Scientists and the United Steelworkers.
Contact: Eric Steen, Director of Communications
(612) 325-6110 (c)
Sabrina Williams, Communications Director
Center for Effective Government
Candice Johnson, Director, Communications Department
Communications Workers of America
Rick Hind, Legislative Director
Seth Michaels, Communications Officer
Union of Concerned Scientists
Michael J. Wright, Director of Health, Safety and Environment
Lake Research Partner designed this survey, which reached a total of 1,009 adults nationwide in the continental United States (508 by landline, and 501 by cell phone), including 794 likely voters. It was conducted from August 20-23, 2015, and has a margin of error among adults of +/-3.1% and among likely voters of +/-3.5%, both at the 95% confidence interval. The margin of error is higher among subgroups.
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
October 11, 2013
Erin Bzymek, Blue Green Alliance,firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-706-6916
Brian Gumm, Center for Effective Government, email@example.com, 202-683-4812
Nick Sifuentes, BerlinRosen Public Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org, 310-866-1692
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 statement “We 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 statement “Requiring 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.