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Trump EPA Quashes Chemical Safety Rule to Ease ‘Burden’ on Industry

Rollback endangers fence line communities near plants.

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency today repealed major safety requirements for chemical, agro-chemical and petroleum plants, which President Obama’s administration put in place to protect workers and people who live near more than 12,000 such facilities across the nation.

In announcing revisions to the EPA’s Chemical Safety Rule, agency chief Andrew Wheeler hailed the rollback as a win for industry, stating that it “reduces unnecessary regulatory burdens” for chemical and petrochemical plants, among other industrial facilities.

The Chemical Safety Rule was first announced by the Obama administration in response to the 2013 West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people, injuring 200 more and turned an estimated 500 homes into rubble.

The stepped-up safety procedures proposed by the Obama administration were strongly opposed by industries that own and operate the manufacturing facilities subject to the new requirements. Once Trump came into office, industry pressed the EPA to roll back much of the chemical safety rule, and in May 2018 disgraced former EPA head Scott Pruitt announced the administration’s proposal to revise it.

“Those who work in or live near a chemical or petroleum plant are already at far greater risk than the average American,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Today’s action by the EPA has only increased the chances that people who live in these fence line neighborhoods, which are disproportionately lower-income communities of color, could be seriously harmed or killed. Safety requirements at these facilities should be stepped up, not rolled back. But this is what we’ve come to expect from the Trump EPA.”

A number of the safeguards the EPA will rescind under the final rule include:

  • The requirement that chemical companies must determine the root causes of spills or explosions.
  • The requirement that an independent third party investigate spills, explosions and other disasters.
  • Training requirements for supervisors of plant operations.
  • The requirement for the plant owner or operators to keep safety information up to date.
  • The requirement that plant owners release chemical hazard information to the public upon request.
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The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles.

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