Quantcast

Arkema Plant Explosion Sparks Criticism of Trump EPA Relaxing Chemical Safety Rules

Popular
EPA admininistrator Scott Pruitt. Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Thursday's explosions at the Harvey-damaged Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas have prompted criticism of the Trump administration's delay of an Obama-era chemical safety regulation that was designed to "improve chemical process safety, assist local emergency authorities in planning for and responding to accidents, and improve public awareness of chemical hazards at regulated source."

The 2013 Risk Management Program rule was developed after a Texas fertilizer plant in the city of West exploded in 2013 and killed 15 people. However, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt the program on hold for two years in order to reconsider industry objections.


Notably, the International Business Times reports that Arkema and its industry colleagues lobbied Pruitt and the EPA to delay the regulation, claiming it was too expensive and burdensome to implement.

After the explosions, Harris County sheriff's office said 15 deputies complained of respiratory irritation and were treated at a local hospital. The office said that all 15 were released from the hospital and healthy.

The blasts also occurred just a day after a federal court refused to force the EPA to implement the Obama rule.

But if the EPA had implemented the regulation, none of the officers would have been at risk, Mathy Stanislaus, who led the agency's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response during the Obama administration, told E&E News.

The rule, which Stanislaus helped draft, would not have prevented the explosions but would ensure "that the local responders were fully aware of the particular chemical and the particular method to respond to an incident," he said.

Stanislaus said that it also would have strengthened efforts to head off accidents and help keep the public informed of potential risks at such facilities.

The substances that caught fire at the Arkema plant were organic peroxides for the production of plastic resins, polystyrene, paints and other products. The company, however, has not provided a full list of chemicals stored at the plant.

"There was a gap in specific knowledge. People need to know what chemicals (are being stored) and what kind of precautions are in place," Stanislaus told the Associated Press.

EPA spokeswoman Amy Graham told the AP that "the agency's recent action to delay the effectiveness of the 2017 amendments had no effect on the major safety requirements that applied to the Arkema Crosby plant at the time of the fire."

The EPA has since sent emergency response personnel to the site and is reviewing data received from an aircraft that surveyed the scene, Pruitt said Thursday.

"There are no concentrations of concern for toxic materials reported at this time," the EPA administrator said.

But Nathan Donley, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity's environmental health program, cried foul.

"Trump's EPA chief say's there's nothing to worry about at Arkema. Quite frankly, I don't believe him," Donely said. "These are incredibly reactive chemicals that the EPA, under previous administrations, has recognized as dangerous. But once again Trump's EPA is siding with industrial polluters rather than looking out for the health of the American people."

Bakeyah Nelson, executive director of Air Alliance Houston, also criticized the Trump administration's continued regulatory rollbacks.

"It's extremely frustrating, it's disheartening, it's unfair to the communities that face these risks," Nelson told POLITICO. "Not just in a natural disaster-type situation, but on a daily basis."

The unprecedented rain and flooding from Harvey has sparked concerns about the risks of the Gulf Coast's massive petrochemical infrastructure. According to data from the Sierra Club, the area is home to 230 chemical plants, 33 oil refineries and hundreds of miles of pipelines.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Gina Lopez, the Philippine secretary of the environment, at a meeting with residents affected by a mine tailing disaster. Keith Schneider

Gina Lopez, a former Philippine environment secretary, philanthropist and eco-warrior, died on Aug. 19 from brain cancer. She was 65.

Read More Show Less
Trump speaks to contractors at the Shell Chemicals Petrochemical Complex on Aug. 13 in Monaca, Pennsylvania. Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

Thousands of union members at a multibillion dollar petrochemical plant outside of Pittsburgh were given a choice last week: Stand and wait for a speech by Donald Trump or take the day off without pay.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Regis Lagrange / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Ariane Lang, BSc, MBA

Lemon (Citrus limon) is a common citrus fruit, alongside grapefruits, limes, and oranges (1).

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
A zero-emission electric car in Vail, Colorado on July 31. Sharon Hahn Darlin / CC BY 2.0

By Simon Mui

States across the country are stepping up to make clean cars cheaper and easier to find. Colorado's Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) voted Friday to adopt a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program that will increase the availability of electric vehicles in the state, improve air quality and increase transportation affordability.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
An internally displaced woman flees from drought in Dollow, Somalia. Zohra Bensemra / Reuters

By Annemieke Tsike-Sossah

World Humanitarian Day offers an opportunity to take stock of where the world stands on addressing humanitarian issues and highlight lessons for how to improve in the future. Here are five ways we all can commit to driving positive change for the world.

Read More Show Less
A view from the top of Ok volcano in Iceland, where the Okjokull glacier used to be located. Drepicter / Getty Images Plus

Officials, activists and scientists gathered in Iceland Sunday for the funeral of the nation's first glacier to fall victim to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
picture-alliance / Xinhua / Then Chih Wey

Some 183 nations are set to discuss possibly loosening elephant and ivory exports at the World Wildlife Conference on trade in endangered species, known as CITES, which is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

Read More Show Less