EPA Stay of Rule Endangers Workers, First Responders and Communities

Leaders from the BlueGreen Alliance react to a 90-day stay of safety rules designed to protect workers, first responders and residents around industrial facilities from fires, chemical releases, explosions, and other disasters.

WASHINGTON, DC (March 14, 2017) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has stayed a vital update to the agency’s industrial facility Risk Management Program (RMP) that was implemented to prevent disasters like the one that took place in West, Texas.

The Texas plant explosion in 2013 killed 15 people, including 12 emergency responders. The 90-day stay was implemented in response to a petition from an industry coalition. The updates to the RMP were set to go into effect today.

“This decision puts workers, first responders and communities at risk at the behest of corporate interests that have repeatedly shown that they are willing to roll the dice on the safety of workers and local communities,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. “EPA should work with us so our members can get home safely at the end of the day. With this action, Administrator Pruitt seems to be saying that the only voices that matter to him are industry lobbyists.”

In the U.S., there are about 150 fires, major chemical releases or explosions at industrial facilities each year. The updates to the RMP are intended to prevent these types of incidents; enhance the ability of communities to protect themselves; and improve the emergency response to incidents that do occur.

“We need to stop serious industrial disasters before they happen, and these updates to the RMP are a big step toward achieving that goal,” said Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The EPA did their job: they took the best available data and put forward a reasonable rule that will keep communities safer. This rule needs to be reinstated immediately to protect neighborhoods at risk.”

The RMP updates are also under attack in Congress, with bills introduced in the House and Senate to stop the rules.

“Administrator Pruitt made a poor call here, but there’s still time for him to reverse this decision,” said BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director Kim Glas. “Both Congress and the EPA need to let this process move forward without interference. Workers, first responders and residents shouldn’t have to wait another minute for these long-overdue safeguards to take effect.”