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Coming Clean, EJHA and 80+ Organizations Call on EPA to Prevent Chemical Disasters 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday November 1, 2022 

by Coming Clean and the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform

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

 

On Monday, October 31st, 2022, 86 organizations, including Coming Clean and the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform (EJHA) submitted a joint public comment to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on proposed revisions to its Risk Management Program (RMP) rule. The EPA intends these revisions to “make communities safer by reducing the frequency of chemical releases and their adverse effects.” But in their comment letter, the organizations stress that the proposed rule is too weak to prevent future chemical disasters.

“Fenceline communities, facility workers, and a wide variety of experts have demonstrated conclusively to EPA that voluntary measures are not working to prevent chemical incidents,” states the letter. “There is abundant evidence available to EPA of policies and methods proven to reduce and remove hazards. EPA needs to finally deliver the basic and common-sense protections that communities, workers, and safety experts have been seeking for too long.”

In their letter, the organizations emphasize that RMP facilities are a key stressor contributing to cumulative adverse health impacts in Environmental Justice communities. Among twenty recommendations, they urge the EPA to: 

  • Require all facilities to implement safer chemicals and processes;
  • Explicitly require all facilities to assess and prepare for climate hazards;
  • Require multilingual emergency response plans, emergency alerts and advanced community notification, as well as annual emergency response drills at all RMP-regulated facilities;
  • Require all facilities to maintain a real-time fenceline air monitoring system;
  • Strengthen worker participation and protection;
  • Require that RMP facilities provide access to information that emergency responders need to protect themselves and the public;
  • Update the list of covered chemicals on the fastest timeline possible (ideally no later than the end of 2023) to add known harmful chemicals, including ammonium nitrate;
  • Improve accessibility and transparency in the RMP Program, including making RMP facility information available on an accessible website regularly updated by EPA, and providing the public with opportunities to engage with specific Risk Management Plans for facilities in their communities.

At public hearings held by the EPA on September 26-28, members of the public similarly urged the EPA to prioritize chemical disaster prevention, and shared personal stories about how their communities have been harmed by recent chemical incidents.

On average, 150 chemical incidents, including fires, toxic chemical releases and explosions happen every year at facilities regulated by the RMP. Coming Clean and EJHA profiled three harmful chemical incidents that occurred in January 2022, along with actionable recommendations for preventing them, in a report published last month.

The EPA is expected to issue a final Risk Management Program rule in August 2023. 

 

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Coming Clean is a nonprofit environmental health collaborative working to transform the chemical industry so it is no longer a source of harm, and to secure systemic changes that allow a safe chemical and clean energy economy to flourish. Our members are organizations and technical experts — including grassroots activists, community leaders, scientists, health professionals, business leaders, lawyers, and farmworker advocates — committed to principled collaboration to advance a nontoxic, sustainable, and just world for all. Learn more about our Chemical Disaster Prevention Program.

The Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform is a national network of grassroots Environmental and Economic Justice organizations and advocates in communities that are disproportionately impacted by toxic chemicals from legacy contamination, ongoing exposure to polluting facilities and health-harming chemicals in household products. EJHA supports a just transition towards safer chemicals and a pollution-free economy that leaves no community or worker behind.