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:

###

Press Releases, Uncategorized

Poll Shows Bi-Partisan Support for New Rules to Prevent Chemical Disasters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                          

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
BlueGreen Alliance
(612) 325-6110 (c)
Erics@bluegreenalliance.org

Sabrina Williams, Communications Director
Center for Effective Government
(202) 683-4883
swilliams@foreffectivegov.org

Candice Johnson, Director, Communications Department
Communications Workers of America
202-434-1347
cjohnson@cwa-union.org

Rick Hind, Legislative Director
Greenpeace
(202) 413-8513
Rick.hind@greenpeace.org

Seth Michaels, Communications Officer
Union of Concerned Scientists
202-331-5662
smichaels@ucsusa.org

Michael J. Wright, Director of Health, Safety and Environment
United Steelworkers
(412) 562-2580
mwright@usw.org

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.

Poll Memo:
http://www.lakeresearch.com/images/share/memo.ChemicalFacilitySafety.F.100815.pdf

Poll Power point:
http://www.lakeresearch.com/images/share/report.ChemicalFacility.Omnibus.FRev.100815.pdf

/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/coalition-ltr-to-obama-2015-final.pdf

http://preventchemicaldisasters.org/resources/158971-2/

http://comingcleaninc.org/whats-new/whos-in-danger-report#sthash.kzGJ9WDF.dpuf

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

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!