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

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!