Wednesday, March 15, 2017

EPA chief freezes safety regulations inspired by Texas fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15

West, Texas chemical plant explosion
(U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard
Investigation Board
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt "has frozen implementation of updated safety regulations for thousands of chemical plants, oil refineries and other industrial facilities, saying the delay is needed to consider an industry coalition's petition to scrap the new rules," Sean Reilly reports for Greenwire.

The regulations were in response "to a 2013 Obama administration executive order after an explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer storage and distribution facility killed 15 people, most of them firefighters," Reilly writes. Regulations, which were published in January and supposed to go into effect Tuesday, will now be effective June 19.

The regulations "are intended to strengthen efforts to head off accidents, better protect first responders from chemical exposure and do more to keep the public informed of potential risks at plants," Reilly writes. "They would apply to as many as 12,500 facilities that have to file risk management plans (RMPs) under the Clean Air Act."

"But industry organizations question whether they're even needed," Reilly writes. "In its reconsideration petition to EPA, the RMP Coalition—which includes the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council and five other industry groups—sought the stay and asked EPA to rescind the final rule."

While labor organizations and safety advocates had backed stricter requirements, and in some cases wanted EPA to go further, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) "have both introduced resolutions to repeal them under the Congressional Review Act," Reilly writes. "Pruitt, also a Republican, was previously Oklahoma's attorney general and has hired several former Inhofe staffers for top jobs at EPA."

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