D.C. Circuit refuses Trump administration’s attempt to delay Chemical Disaster Rule

Court rules protections for communities and first responders must remain in place

(HOUSTON – August 17, 2018) Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit blocked the Trump Administration from delaying an important rule meant to protect communities, workers, and first responders from dangerous chemical accidents. Air Alliance Houston is part of a coalition of community groups that sued the Environmental Protection Agency over the delay.

“This decision means that people living near industrial facilities and those who respond to chemical accidents will have the stronger protections they deserve,” said Bakeyah Nelson, executive director of Air Alliance Houston. “In Houston, the people who live in the places with the most perils are mostly people of color and low incomes. They want their neighborhoods to be healthy and safe. This is a big win for them.”

Background

In January 2017, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy strengthened key provisions of the Accident Release Prevention/Risk Management Program. Those provisions are designed to help prevent and mitigate chemical accidents. The changes included more protective accident prevention program requirements, emergency response enhancements, and enhanced public transparency and availability of information.

Some of these key improvements, which are jointly known as the “Chemical Disaster Rule,” are summarized below (the final rule is at 82 Fed. Reg. 4594.) These protections were slated to take legal effect on March 14, 2017, and the rule required phased-in compliance with its provisions over the next several years.

One of the immediate actions taken by the Trump Administration’s first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, was to suspend these key improvements to Chemical Risk Program.

On February 28, 2017, an industry coalition including the American Chemistry Council, the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Utility Air Regulatory Group asked EPA to reconsider the Chemical Disaster Rule.

Administrator Pruitt quickly obliged by convening a reconsideration proceeding on March 13, 2017 and suspending the Rule for 90-days on March 16, 2017. Both of these initial actions to halt the rule took place without any public process, a pattern continued in many of Pruitt’s actions as EPA Administrator.

Subsequently, on June 14, 2017, Pruitt issued a rule suspending the requirements until February of 2019. Pruitt’s decision to suspend these protections disrupted the implementation of the rule.

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Air Alliance Houston (airalliancehouston.org) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reduce air pollution in the Houston region and protect public health and environmental integrity through research, education and advocacy. 

Media contact: Emilia Benton, (541) 961-9811, emiliamariebenton@gmail.com