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January 30, 2020


EPA’s Rollback of the Chemical Disaster Rule Eliminates Key Safety Measures for People Exposed to Explosions, Fires, Poisonous Gas Releases

Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul today joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general and the city of Philadelphia in filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for rolling back safeguards to prevent and limit damage from dangerous chemical accidents. Raoul and the coalition are challenging the EPA’s rollback of Obama-era amendments to its “Risk Management Program” (RMP) regulations, referred to as the Chemical Disaster Rule. This rule made critical improvements to the RMP to better safeguard against explosions, fires, poisonous gas releases, and other accidents at facilities that store and use toxic chemicals.

“These regulations are vital to protecting the health and safety of the environment, workers and communities near accident sites,” Raoul said. “My office will work to preserve regulations intended to mitigate the damage from these disasters.”

The EPA finalized a rule that rolls back critical elements of the Chemical Disaster Rule in December 2019, which eliminated safeguards in accident prevention programs designed to protect communities and prevent future accidents. These changes included the elimination of independent audits conducted by third-parties and “root cause” analyses following accidents, as well as analyses of safer technology and alternatives that could prevent or lessen harm from accidents. The EPA also cut back on training requirements and requiring facilities to share information with first responders and nearby communities on hazardous chemicals used onsite.

In August 2018, Illinois joined a coalition of 12 attorneys general in submitting extensive comments on the EPA’s proposed rollback of the Chemical Disaster Rule, arguing that the proposal, if adopted, would be arbitrary and capricious and inconsistent with the Clean Air Act. The coalition urged the EPA to heed the warning of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the agency’s single-minded focus on industry costs of complying with the Chemical Disaster Rule made a mockery out of the Clean Air Act.

Toxic chemical plants continue to have a potential for accidents that pose a serious danger to the public. Since the attorneys general commented on the proposed rule, accidents at facilities regulated under the RMP have occurred across the country, causing deaths, injuries and evacuations. For example, in June 2019, a massive explosion at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, required shutting down nearby roads and a shelter-in-place order for surrounding neighborhoods. Five workers were injured and property damage from the fire was estimated at $1 billion.

The coalition’s petition for review was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Joining Raoul in filing the lawsuit are the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin, as well as the city of Philadelphia.


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