Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Post-Sept. 11 regulation keeps EPA from publicly identifying chemical facilities that violate rules

 Texas chemical plant where 15 people died in 2013 explosion
The good news is that the Environmental Protection Agency knows which chemical facilities are not following safety protocols. The bad news is that EPA can't tell the public. The agency has identified 13 to 15 potential violators since the deadly 2013 fertlizer explosion in West, Tex., Sam Pearson reports for Greenwire. "At least two outliers remain out of compliance. But their identities remain a secret thanks to post-Sept. 11 regulations administered by a different agency, the Department of Homeland Security. Unlike an earlier generation of environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, programs launched under the umbrella of DHS were crafted largely without any sense of transparency in mind."

"It's just one example of the secrecy that keeps the identities of problem plants hidden—a luxury not afforded to gross violators of air, water and other traditional environmental laws," Pearson writes. "For these programs, the public can search using free online tools to identify industrial facilities that emit hazardous chemicals into the air or water at levels exceeding permitted amounts. The secrecy surrounding chemical plants makes it hard for the public to know what DHS is doing to protect them. DHS didn't respond to multiple requests for comment on this story."

"EPA said it could release only information that did not identify the facilities," Pearson writes. "In the two pages of correspondence the agency disclosed, an unidentified chemical facility tried to make the case that EPA was mistaken in its assessment of the quantity of chemicals it used and thus it did not have to participate in the risk management program." (Read more)

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