Press Releases, Uncategorized

Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters Denounces Repeal of Chemical Disaster Prevention Rule

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 21, 2019

Media Contacts:

Environmental Justice Health Alliance: Michele Roberts, (202) 704-7593, mroberts@comingcleaninc.org; or Eric Whalen, (971) 998-8786, ericwhalen@comingcleaninc.org

BlueGreen Alliance: Abby Harvey, (202) 706-6904, aharvey@bluegreenalliance.org

Paul Orum, independent expert on chemical facility safety, (202) 507-3211, paul_orum@yahoo.com

Trump Administration Rollback Will Lead to More Chemical Disasters

Worker and Community Advocates Denounce Repeal of Chemical Disaster Prevention Rule

This morning the Trump Administration sacrificed the health and safety of workers at high-risk chemical facilities and the millions of people who live, work, attend school, and worship near these facilities by rescinding common sense measures that would have prevented chemical disasters. Despite overwhelming public support for the modest improvements to the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical disaster prevention rule (the Risk Management Plan, or RMP, program) adopted during the Obama Administration – reflected in support from over 150 public health, worker, environmental justice, and national security organizations – the Trump EPA has now reversed those Amendments at the behest of the chemical industry. The rollback weakens disaster prevention requirements at over 12,000 high-risk industrial and commercial facilities across the United States, putting over 177 million residents and over 1 million workers at greater risk of a chemical disaster.

Workers at RMP facilities (which use or store the most dangerous, high risk chemicals) and communities at the fenceline of these hazardous operations who are part of the broad and diverse Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters expressed outrage at the Administration’s reversal of the modest RMP Amendments.

“Once again, workers, communities of color, and low-income communities have been placed squarely in harm’s way by the Trump Administration,” said Michele Roberts, National Co-Coordinator of the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform (EJHA), a network of more than 30 grassroots environmental justice organizations. “EPA’s own analysis demonstrated that our communities are at disproportionate risk of chemical disasters, on top of the many other toxic hazards we experience daily. Ignoring that evidence is further proof that this Administration has no regard for the health and safety of workers and communities. This is environmental racism.”

“Rolling back common sense safety measures at high-risk chemical facilities is another example of the Trump Administration letting industry write its own rules, while ignoring safety risks to workers. We’re concerned about the safety of both the workers at these facilities, and the people who live near these operations. Nationally, more than 1 million workers at over 12,000 high-risk facilities will now be in even more danger because these companies just got a free pass on safety, ” said Debra Coyle McFadden, Executive Director, NJ Work Environment Council, a coalition of 70 labor, community and environmental groups in New Jersey.

“Recklessly endangering the lives of millions of Americans as the EPA has done with this rule is unconscionable. This action shows once again that the Trump administration does not prioritize the health and safety of workers and communities, but rather seeks to give corporations free reign to act irresponsibly without consequence,” said Jason Walsh, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance, which unites America’s largest labor unions and its most influential environmental organizations.

The Administration’s action needlessly endangers 177 million people who live in the potential chemical disaster zones of over 12,000 high-risk facilities across the country that use or store highly dangerous chemicals, over 1 million workers at those facilities, and almost 20 million children who attend school in these danger zones. Important policy elements that would have helped to prevent future disasters but are now eliminated by the rollback include:

  • Ensuring that lessons are learned from serious incidents. Facilities that have incidents that resulted, or could have resulted (i.e. “near misses”), in a catastrophic chemical release would have had to identify the “root cause” of the incident, and facilities that had reportable incidents would have been required to have an independent third party conduct a compliance review.
  • Helping communities prepare for disasters by requiring facilities to provide information that is already publicly available to community members (including school administrators and hospital managers) upon request, including chemical hazard information, accident history, dates of past emergency response exercises, and emergency response program information.
  • Identifying safety opportunities by requiring facilities in industrial sectors with the worst safety records to assess options that might remove hazards as part of their safety planning. Although 30 million Americans in 47 states no longer live within disaster zones of 284 facilities that already found and adopted less hazardous options, many communities with concentrations of high-risk facilities are still in constant danger.

The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters is composed of over 100 environmental justice, labor, public health, national security, and environmental organizations who work together to protect communities and workers from chemical releases and explosions. Learn more at http://preventchemicaldisasters.org/

More background on RMP facility hazards and risks to workers and fenceline communities can be found at:

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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