WASHINGTON, May 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Representatives of The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters gathered outside the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) federal offices to present comments from over 125 organizations and 40,000 members of the public gathered over the preceding 60 day comment period. Responding to EPA's proposed "Modernization of the Accidental Release Prevention Regulations," people from across the nation, many living in the shadow of facilities in greatest need of increased safety measures, listed numerous shortcomings of the proposed rule.
In the wake of the fully preventable fertilizer explosion in West, TX, which killed 15 and injured over 200, President Obama issued Executive Order #13650 which directed EPA to modernize safety and security regulations for certain high risk chemical plants. However, EPA's proposed rule fails to require any facilities to adopt safer technologies, nor would these assessments be made available to the general public. Coalition representatives noted that the Clean Air Act states: "the Administrator shall promulgate reasonable regulations and appropriate guidance to provide the greatest extent practicable, for the prevention and detection of accidental releases..." By assessing safer technologies without requiring facilities to adopt available safer alternatives, EPA is practically ensuring our nation will suffer another major, preventable chemical disaster in the near future.
Community members and chemical safety organizations were also concerned that the proposed rules allow these facilities to conceal the results of their assessments from the residents, schools, and hospitals nearby.
Some communities face more danger than others. A recent report by The Center for Effective Government found that across the nation, poor and people of color communities face disproportionate impacts from chemical facility disasters. Among other findings, the report determined that:
- People of color are almost twice as likely to live within a mile of Risk Management Program (RMP) facilities which are regulated by EPA's proposed rule.
- Low-income people are 1.5 times more likely to live near these facilities.
- Over 12,000 schools are located within a mile of a hazardous facility, putting 4.9 million students (one in ten) in danger. Children of color and those receiving free lunch are more likely to attend these schools.
Other notable officials submitted comments in support of stronger chemical facility safety rules, including a letter from former EPA Administrator Governor Christine Todd Whitman and two retired generals: Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré and Major General Randy Manner. The United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) also submitted comprehensive comments to EPA asking for stronger rules to protect public safety. All of these parties urged EPA to require chemical facilities to implement inherently safer technologies (IST) where feasible, yet EPA appears to be ignoring these requests in its proposed rule.
Community groups noted that instead of preventing loss of life, the proposed rule is largely focused on post-disaster measures such as accident investigations, emergency response, evacuations and shelter in place. Without more emphasis on prevention, many more response resources will be needed for the additional incidents and resulting deaths, injuries and property damage that will occur.
According to the EPA, in the past 10 years nearly 60 people died, some 17,000 people were injured or sought medical treatment, and almost 500,000 people were evacuated or sheltered-in-place as a result of accidental releases at chemical plants. During that time, more than 1,500 incidents were reported causing over $2 billion in property damages.
The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters is composed of over 100 environmental justice, labor, public health, national security, and environmental organizations. Find out more about the coalition here: https://preventchemicaldisasters.org/
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SOURCE Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters