Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Court Requires EPA to Protect Communities Against Worst-Case Chemical Spills

Popular
Court Requires EPA to Protect Communities Against Worst-Case Chemical Spills
A sign posted at the Dixie Oil Processors Superfund site on September 4, 2017 in Friendswood, Texas after Hurricane Harvey. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

On Thursday, a federal district court required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue long-overdue protections against worst-case scenario spills of hazardous materials, like in the case of extreme storms, fires, or flooding. The decision approved a negotiated consent decree between the EPA and a coalition of community and environmental organizations, including NRDC, the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform (EJHA), and Clean Water Action.

"This is a victory for the millions of people who live in fear of experiencing catastrophic chemical spills in their own backyards," says Kaitlin Morrison, an NRDC attorney.


The EPA had failed to issue the protections for nearly 30 years, despite Congress's 1990 amendments to the Clean Water Act mandating it to do so. The coalition sued the agency in March 2019 to force action. With today's legal victory, the agency must now issue proposed rules within two years and then finalize those rules two and a half years after that.

An estimated 2,500 U.S. chemical facilities, such as aboveground storage tanks holding hazardous substances, are subject only to worst-case spill-planning requirements at the state level—which, if they exist at all, are vulnerable to rollbacks. Fenceline communities—or communities living closest to chemical production and storage facilities—where most residents are low-income or people of color, are most at risk.

In 2017, that risk became abundantly clear when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. The city's density of chemical facilities and susceptibility to flooding led to the release of harmful chemicals through numerous spills, leaks, and explosions—causing some first responders to be hospitalized.

"Fenceline communities know that it's not if, but when the next chemical leak, spill, or flooding event will happen, and the cumulative impacts of these tragic events are unjustly borne by people of color and low-income residents," says Michele Roberts, national co-coordinator of the EJHA. "It is way beyond time for EPA to exercise the moral and political courage to protect these overburdened communities from the daily assaults on their health and quality of life."

Reposted with permission from NRDC.

Artist's impression of an Othalo community, imagined by architect Julien De Smedt. Othalo

By Victoria Masterson

Using one of the world's problems to solve another is the philosophy behind a Norwegian start-up's mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Brett Wilkins

Despite acknowledging that the move would lead to an increase in the 500 million to one billion birds that die each year in the United States due to human activity, the Trump administration on Friday published a proposed industry-friendly relaxation of a century-old treaty that protects more than 1,000 avian species.

Read More Show Less

Trending

U.S. returns create about 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. manonallard / Getty Images

Many people shop online for everything from clothes to appliances. If they do not like the product, they simply return it. But there's an environmental cost to returns.

Read More Show Less
Climate Envoy John Kerry (L) and President-elect Joseph (R) are seen during Kerry's ceremonial swearing in as Secretary of State on February 6, 2013 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian

John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.

Read More Show Less
Scientific integrity is key for protecting the field against attacks. sanjeri / Getty Images

By Maria Caffrey

As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.

Read More Show Less