BALTIMORE, MD—Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh on Wednesday joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general and the City of Philadelphia in filing suit against the Environmental Protection Agency for gutting safeguards to prevent and limit harms from chemical accidents.
The coalition is challenging the EPA’s rollback of Obama-era amendments to its Risk Management Program regulations, referred to as the Chemical Disaster Rule. This rule made improvements to the RMP to better prevent explosions, fires, poisonous gas releases, and other accidents at facilities that store and use toxic chemicals.
“When a business has toxic chemicals onsite, neighbors and emergency responders – police, fire and rescue – ought to know what they are up against,” said Attorney General Frosh. “Keeping this information secret endangers lives.”
In December 2019, the EPA finalized a rule that eliminated critical elements of the Chemical Disaster Rule, removing accident prevention programs designed to protect communities, workers, and first responders. These changes included the elimination of independent audits and root cause analyses following accidents, as well as analyses of safer technology and alternatives that could prevent future accidents, according tot he coalition. They say the final rule also cuts back on training requirements for employees, managers, and first responders and eliminates requirements that facilities share information concerning the hazardous chemicals used onsite with first responders and nearby communities.
In August 2018, a coalition of 12 attorneys general submitted extensive comments on the EPA’s proposed rollback of the Chemical Disaster Rule, arguing that the proposal, if adopted, would be arbitrary and inconsistent with the Clean Air Act. The coalition urged EPA to heed the warning of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the Agency’s focus on industry costs of complying with the Rule minimized the importance of the Clean Air Act.
The coalition’s petition for review was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In addition to Maryland, the suit was joined by the attorneys general of Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia and the City of Philadelphia.