P.O. Box 11034
Charleston, WV 25339
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People Concerned About Chemical Safety (PCACS) is a community organization in the Kanawha Valley that has been active in community affairs for over 25 years. Dedicated to the protection of health and safety of all who reside, work, and study in the vicinity of chemical facilities, we promote environmental justice and chemical safety through education and advocacy.
Following the January 9th Elk River chemical leak, we successfully organized citizen action efforts to protect drinking water that led to the strongest piece of environmental legislation in West Virginia history. We successfully initiated a process to implement Chemical Safety Board recommendations outstanding from a 2008 explosion at the BayerCropScience-Institute, WV facility.
March 19, 2023
The unusually high profile of the East Palestine derailment — which prompted the railroad to send a massive black plume into the air, went viral on social media and became a political flash point — drew national attention to federal rules governing toxic chemicals, railroad safety and chemical transport. While activists who talked to The Washington Post said heightened awareness of chemical risks is good, watching an emergency unfold can also be difficult. “Every time they happen, they remind you of the disasters that you’ve experienced,” said Maya Nye, a West Virginia activist and federal policy director at Coming Clean, a nonprofit organization that advocates for preventing chemical disasters. “It’s just yet another reminder of the protections that aren’t there that people in my community have been fighting for for so long,” Nye said. Some have also noted that the incident in East Palestine, a majority-White town of 4,700 people, drew more attention than those in their communities of color. In Houston, advocates’ frustration was compounded by the news that some of the toxic waste excavated in East Palestine would be trucked to a Southeast Texas facility. “We have become the dumping ground for the rest of the nation,” said Ana Parras, co-director of the Houston-based group Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, which advocates for people living near rail tracks and chemical facilities. Her organization and others protested the movement of the derailment waste to Harris County, Tex.Read More
October 23, 2022
Maya Nye felt the boom that changed her life from a mile away. Then a fire truck went down her one-way street announcing that a shelter-in-place order had taken effect and to shut all doors and windows. Nye, then 16, sheltered in place like she had been taught in school, but the duct tape she put up to cover the cracks around the door and windows didn’t work. The smell infiltrated her house. An explosion at the Institute chemical plant then owned by former French chemical company Rhône-Poulenc killed one worker and injured two others who were in a unit for the insecticide methomyl. It was Aug. 18, 1993 — nearly nine years after a leak of highly toxic methyl isocyanate from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, killed thousands of people and caused permanent disabilities or premature death for many thousands more. “My life was forever changed,” recalled Nye, who became a chemical safety advocate and is now federal policy director for Coming Clean, a chemical industry-focused environmental health nonprofit.Read More
October 6, 2022
In christening a new office of environmental justice, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan proclaimed on Sept. 24 that “underserved and overburdened communities are at the forefront of our work.” A stern test of that proclamation began just two days later. On Sept. 26, the EPA held the first of three virtual listening sessions on the Biden administration’s proposal to strengthen its chemical disaster rule. Many safety measures were gutted by the Trump administration’s EPA, which was run by coal and chemical industry lobbyists. During the Trump administration, polluters were relieved of the need to tell the public what chemicals they store, to conduct analyses of safer technologies, to seek third-party audits after accidents, or conduct root-cause analyses of any underlying, systemic reasons an accident occurred.Read More
April 8, 2022
The Environmental Justice for All Act (EJ for All Act) is an essential federal legislative effort to begin remedying the long history of environmental racism and injustice in the United States, including the cumulative and disproportionate pollution burdens threatening communities of color, low-income communities, and Native/Indigenous nations and communities across the country. Importantly, this landmark bill has been developed in close partnership with leaders in the environmental justice movement. The extensive public input process that informed the EJ for All Act’s creation has produced legislation uniquely shaped by the same people and communities that will benefit directly from its policy improvements. Accordingly, the EJ for All Act recognizes that meaningfully improving the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color requires transformative change led by those on the frontlines. As described by Michele Roberts, National Co-Coordinator of the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, “This is legislation that our affiliates see themselves in.”Read More
December 21, 2021
Every time Pam Nixon drives along Interstate 64, she sees the Union Carbide plant. Wedged between a green hillside and the Kanawha River, the sprawling facility has helped define West Virginia’s “Chemical Valley” for the better part of a century, its smokestacks belching gray plumes and fishy odors into the town of Institute, population 1,400. To many West Virginians, the plant is a source of pride — it was a key maker of synthetic rubber in World War II — and a source of hundreds of jobs. But to Nixon and others in Institute’s largely Black community, it has meant something else: pollution. The plant reminds Nixon of leaks, fires, explosions — dangers she’s dedicated most of her adult life to trying to stop.Read More
P.O. Box 11034
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