A coalition of more than a dozen environmental groups on Thursday sued the Trump administration for rolling back chemical disaster prevention regulations, a move they say has endangered millions of lives.
"By killing these critical protections, millions of people living near chemical facilities in the United States are put in harm's way," said the coalition represented by environmental advocacy organization Earthjustice. "We are fighting for the lives and safety of our families and workers. Our lives are more valuable than the bottom line of a few chemical barons."
The rollback of the Obama-era Chemical Disaster Rule was finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month despite urgent warnings that the decision would put the health and safety of people who live near chemical plants at risk. The EPA's new rule, which the environmental coalition said is illegal, took effect Thursday morning.
BREAKING: This morning the @EPA published a final rule rolling back key protections of the Chemical Disaster Rule, a gift to the chemical industry that endangers 188 million people living in the US. In response, we sued them before noon. #SeeYouInCourt https://t.co/wuqos872yK
— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice) December 19, 2019
Last month, just a week after the rollback was announced, a TPC Group chemical plant in Port Neches, Texas exploded and spewed toxic gas into the air, prompting authorities to issue an order urging 50,000 city residents to evacuate. Environmentalists cited the incident as evidence of the dangers of deregulation and the need for stronger disaster prevention rules.
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"Rolling back the Chemical Disaster Rule is a death sentence for many people in the Port Arthur/Port Neches area of Texas, and beyond," Hilton Kelley, founder and executive director of the Community In-Power and Development Association, said in a statement. "The TPC disaster in Port Neches/Grove is a prime example of why we need the Chemical Disaster Rule in place."
According to Earthjustice, "nearly 180 million Americans live in the worst-case scenario zones for a chemical disaster" and "at least one in three children go to a school near a hazardous chemical facility."
Emma Cheuse, an attorney with Earthjustice, said the coalition had "no choice" but to take the Trump administration to court.
"The EPA's rollback of life-saving components of the Chemical Disaster Rule is not just unlawful, it is irresponsible," said Cheuse. "Instead, EPA should do its job and ensure that chemical companies do everything in their power to keep surrounding communities safe, and avoid a worst-case scenario."