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EPA Decided Preventing a West, Texas-Style Accident Wasn't a Priority. So 11 AGs Are Suing

'The Trump EPA continues to put special interests before the health and safety of the people they serve," said New York Attorney General Schneiderman

Search and rescue workers comb through what remains of a 50-unit apartment building the day after an explosion at the West Fertilizer Company destroyed the building April 18, 2013 in West, Texas. According to West Mayor Tommy Muska, around 35 people, including 10 first responders, were killed and more than 150 people were injured when the fertilizer company caught fire and exploded, leaving damaged buildings for blocks in every direction. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Eleven states filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency and its chief, Scott Pruitt, in federal court on Monday over the agency's decision to postpone implementation of a rule aimed at lessening the risk of a chemical plant disaster such as the deadly one that rocked West, Texas in 2013.

"Protecting our workers, first-responders, and communities from chemical accidents should be something on which we all agree. Yet the Trump EPA continues to put special interests before the health and safety of the people they serve," said New York Attorney General Schneiderman, who's leading the lawsuit.

Noting that EPA itself says there have been over 1,500 accidents at chemical plants over the past decade resulting in 58 deaths, Schneiderman said, "It's simply outrageous to block these common sense protections—and attorneys general will keep fighting back when our communities are put at risk."

The EPA said in June it was again delaying implementation of the Risk Management Program (RMP) Amendments, setting an effective date of February 19, 2019. The states say that the EPA rule delay is arbitrary and capricious, and exceeds the agency's authority under the Clean Air Act.

The Obama-era rule, a press statement from Schneiderman's office states,

would necessitate additional safeguards in accident prevention programs to protect communities and prevent future accidents—requiring "root cause" analyses and third-party audits following accidents, as well as analyses of safer technology and alternatives; emergency response procedures, mandating annual coordination with local first responders, annual notification drills, and periodic field exercises; and increased public access to facility chemical hazard information, in addition to public meetings within 90 days of an incident. In fact, despite Administrator Pruitt’s delay of the rule, the Trump EPA published a June 2017 fact sheet explaining how these improvements "will help protect local first responders, community members, and employees from death or injury due to the chemical facility accidents.

The delay of the rules, notes Genna Reed at the Union of Concerned Scientists, "came after several petitions from the American Chemistry Council and a handful of other chemical manufacturing corporations, oil and gas companies, and trade organizations asked the agency to reconsider the rule. Even after receiving thousands of public comments, including those from individuals from low-income communities and communities of color that face the greatest risks from RMP facilities urging the EPA to enforce the rule as planned, the EPA sided with industry and went forward with its decision to delay."

"President Trump's illegal safety rollback puts our first responders and local communities in danger from chemical accidents," said New Mexico Attorney General Balderas, vowing continued legal action against Trump when he "puts our children, families, and whole communities at risk."

Attorneys General Schneiderman and Balderas are joined in the suit by the AGs from Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

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