Scanlon, Blunt Rochester Urge EPA to Uphold Chemical Disaster Rule: “Protect Workers and Communities"

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Washington, November 15, 2019 | Andrew Donnelly (202-225-4165) | comments

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) led a letter to Andrew Wheeler, Administrator of the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA), concerning the agency’s plans to undermine the Chemical Disaster Rule which includes existing safety regulations for chemical facilities, their workers, and surrounding communities.

The Chemical Disaster Rule, finalized in 2017, took concrete steps to strengthen community preparedness against chemical disasters. The Rule included modest but important incident prevention measures, improved emergency response coordination and planning, and community access to safety-related information. But, the implementation of this policy was delayed by the Trump Administration and in 2018, the Administration announced its plans to rollback these existing protections which are currently under review by the Office of Management Budget.

In that time, at least 73 publicly known chemical incidents have occurred, including:

  • Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery explosion in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This explosion launched a 38,000-pound vessel across the Schuylkill River on June 21, 2019 and released around 676,000 pounds of hydrocarbons and 3,271 pounds of hydrofluoric acid into the air.
  • Intercontinental Terminals Company fire in Deer Park, Texas, on March 17, 2019. This fire led to 700 local residents to seek medical attention, created 20 million gallons of waste, and produced a mile-high plume and a four-day fire.
  • Husky Energy Oil Refinery explosion in Superior, Wisconsin, on April 26, 2018. This incident injured 36 people and forced the evacuation of the entire town.

“Efforts by this administration to roll back these commonsense measures are irresponsible and largely influenced by industry petitioners, which runs directly counter to the EPA’s stated mission of protecting human health,” said Rep. Scanlon. “We’ve seen first-hand in our community the ongoing need for stronger protections at chemical facilities. I am proud to join Rep. Blunt Rochester in leading this letter urging the EPA to stand up for workers, first responders, and surrounding communities by withdrawing this potentially life-threatening change to settled policy.

“Protecting our communities, our health, and the environment is one of the most fundamental and important roles of the EPA. This administration continues to abdicate any responsibility to protect our health with its latest roll back of the Chemical Disaster Rule. By rolling back these commonsense protections, the Trump administration is putting workers, first responders, and our communities in harm’s way of chemical disasters,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “I am proud to partner with Rep. Scanlon and my other colleagues in demanding the EPA withdraw this dangerous rollback.”

This letter, signed by over 30 members of Congress, was sent to the EPA with support from organizations on the frontlines of protecting our environment, facility workers, and surrounding communities, including Earthjustice, United Steelworkers (USW), and the BlueGreen Alliance.

“It is dismaying that this administration has put so much time and energy into trying to roll-back the Chemical Disaster Rule. These are basic, commonsense measures and protections that will prevent injuries, save lives, and help communities prepare for worst case scenarios,” said Abigail Dillen, President of Earthjustice. “We look forward to the day when EPA gets back to the business of protecting people instead of corporate profits, and applaud these members of Congress for speaking out and drawing attention to this important issue.”

“The Chemical Disaster Rule and its focus on disaster prevention and safer business practices is exactly what workers, first responders and people who live near chemical and petrochemical plants all need,” said Tom Conway, USW President. “Too many workers have already been killed and injured in industrial disasters. Finalizing rollbacks to this rule—denying workers and communities crucial protections against fire, explosions and toxic emissions—makes no sense.”

“Gutting the Risk Management Program will put the lives of millions of Americans in danger,” said Jason Walsh, Executive Director of BlueGreen Alliance. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal is reckless and further illustrates that this administration has little concern for the health and safety of workers and communities.”  

A copy of this letter can be found here.

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