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August 19, 2022Chemical disaster prevention must be prioritized in EPA’s updated rules for hazardous facilities

PRESS STATEMENT

Media Contact: Deidre Nelms, dnelms@comingcleaninc.org (802) 251-0203 ext. 711

 

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed the Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention (SCCAP) rule, which makes long-awaited revisions to the Risk Management Program (RMP). The rule is intended to prevent chemical disasters and is a critical safeguard for more than 177 million Americans who live near more than 12,000 high-risk facilities that use or store highly hazardous chemicals. 

In response to this proposed rule, Coming Clean released the following statement:

The Coming Clean network looks forward to carefully reviewing the new draft Risk Management Plan Rule, in strategic partnership with the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform. Our members, which include health and policy experts, environmental health and justice organizations and frontline community members, have been vocal about the urgent need to update this rule with the aim of preventing chemical disasters. Chemical releases, fires, and explosions occur with disturbing regularity in the US. On average, approximately 150 harmful incidents occur every year at RMP facilities, frequently causing schools to shelter in place, residents to evacuate, and harmful air pollution to spike. Communities of color and low-income communities disproportionately bear the impact of these disasters.

Strengthening the RMP rule is a longstanding priority for Coming Clean. In public comments submitted to the EPA last year, we called for a preventative, protective rule that prioritizes the health and safety of fenceline communities. As we evaluate the draft rule, we hope to see progress in the following key areas: 

  1. EPA should require, rather than merely advise, facilities to reduce or remove dangerous chemicals and processes when safer technology or chemicals are available. Hazard reduction measures, such as the use of inherently safer technology, chemicals and processes, have been recommended multiple times by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) as well as  by EJ, labor, environmental and health advocates. 

 

  1. EPA should explicitly require facilities to assess and implement preparations for climate hazards like hurricanes, storm surges, flooding and wildfires that increase the risk of chemical disasters, as recommended by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

 

  1. EPA should include common-sense emergency response and incident management requirements in an updated rule, such as realtime fenceline air monitoring, enough back-up power to safely run and/or shutdown the facility in the event the power goes out, multilingual alerts, and advance community notification about the plan for emergencies — before an incident occurs.

 

  1. EPA should increase enforceability, corrective action, and accountability in the rule, in part by recognizing workers as key partners in chemical disaster prevention, through measures like stop-work authority and anonymous safety reporting. 

 

  1. EPA should expand coverage of the rules and the program to more chemicals and facilities, including ammonium nitrate, to prevent incidents like the devastating West, Texas disaster, and the recent chemical fire at the Weaver fertilizer plant that could have triggered a major explosion.

 

  1. EPA should account for cumulative health impacts from multiple polluting facilities by requiring more layers of prevention at facilities contributing to cumulative health stressors. 



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Coming Clean is a collaborative network of frontline community activists, environmental health and justice organizations, and policy, science and market experts, committed to transforming the chemical industry so that it is no longer a source of harm. For twenty years, we have fought to end legacy pollution in communities of color, ban toxic pesticides that harm farmworkers and their families, regulate hazardous facilities, and end the sale of unsafe products in dollar stores and other retailers across the country.






 

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