“Safety requirements at these facilities should be stepped up, not rolled back. But this is what we’ve come to expect from the Trump EPA.”
Environmental justice groups condemned the Trump administration Thursday for catering to the chemical industry after the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rollback of Obama-era disaster prevention measures that were implemented to protect workers at and residents of communities with chemical plants.
“Today’s action by the EPA has only increased the chances that people who live in these fence line neighborhoods, which are disproportionately lower-income communities of color, could be seriously harmed or killed.”
—Ken Cook, EWG
The Trump EPA’s changes to Chemical Disaster Rule (pdf) crafted under former President Barack Obama came after years of delays and industry opposition to stricter regulations.
“Those who work in or live near a chemical or petroleum plant are already at far greater risk than the average American,” Environmental Working Group (EWG) president Ken Cook said in a statement. “Today’s action by the EPA has only increased the chances that people who live in these fence line neighborhoods, which are disproportionately lower-income communities of color, could be seriously harmed or killed.”
“Safety requirements at these facilities should be stepped up, not rolled back,” Cook added. “But this is what we’ve come to expect from the Trump EPA.”
Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), echoed Cook’s criticism.
“Fence line communities continue to suffer the extraordinary risks brought on by big industrial facilities and all too frequent chemical accidents,” said Rosenberg. “This rule adds insult to injury by refusing to address the need to reduce disaster risks and consider community needs. That is completely unacceptable.”
A few months after a 2013 explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas killed 15 people, injured over 160, and leveled hundreds of homes, Obama signed an executive order calling for chemical safety improvements nationwide. The Chemical Disaster Rule to strengthen federal Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations was published just before President Donald Trump took office and set to take effect in 2017.
However, Trump’s first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, delayed its implementation, which prompted an ongoing legal battle. In May 2018, the Trump administration proposed changes to the RMP that aligned with the chemical industry’s wishes.
The EPA claimed Thursday that the Trump administration’s final rule “modifies and improves the existing rule to remove burdensome, costly, unnecessary amendments while maintaining appropriate protections and ensuring first responders have access to all of the necessary safety information.”
Former coal lobbyist and current EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said, “Today’s final action addresses emergency responders’ longstanding concerns and maintains important public safety measures while saving Americans roughly $88 million per year.”
The EPA also circulated praise for the final rule from from a few first responders, the trade organization Agricultural Retailers Association, and Republican state attorney generals and secretaries as well as members of Congress. E&E News reported that the American Chemistry Council, another trade group, also welcomed the new rule.
Critics, however, highlighted concerns that the RPM changes will endanger workers and community members.
“Once again, workers, communities of color, and low-income communities have been placed squarely in harm’s way by the Trump administration,” declared Michele Roberts, national co-coordinator of the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform. “EPA’s own analysis demonstrated that our communities are at disproportionate risk of chemical disasters, on top of the many other toxic hazards we experience daily. Ignoring that evidence is further proof that this administration has no regard for the health and safety of workers and communities. This is environmental racism.”
EWG’s explained that the Trump rule rescinds:
- The requirement that chemical companies must determine the root causes of spills or explosions.
- The requirement that an independent third party investigate spills, explosions and other disasters.
- Training requirements for supervisors of plant operations.
- The requirement for the plant owner or operators to keep safety information up to date.
- The requirement that plant owners release chemical hazard information to the public upon request.
“This administration is gutting the few protections we have against chemical explosions and other toxic disasters, just to appease chemical companies who only worry about their own profit,” 13 groups said in a joint statement. “Yet for the millions of families and children who live by chemical facilities, this is not about money, it’s about surviving chemical disasters. Lives depend on this rule.”
The 13 groups, which won a legal battle in August 2018 vacating the Trump EPA’s delay of the rule, were represented by the nonprofit law firm Earthjustice. In response to the EPA’s announcement Thursday, Earthjustice attorney Emma Cheuse said that “there is no excuse for exposing families and children to preventable chemical disasters.”
“We will continue working with people in the most affected communities,” Cheuse vowed, “to defend public safety and to oppose Trump’s dangerous rollback of the Chemical Disaster Rule.”
Louie Gohmert’s daughter begs him to heed medical advice and not to follow Trump to ‘an early grave’
In a statement posted to Twitter this Friday, the daughter of Texas GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert said that her father contracted the coronavirus because he chose to ignore medical expertise.
Gohmert’s daughter Caroline, who is also a recording artist known as BELLSAINT, said that “wearing a mask is a non-partisan issue.”
“The advice of medical experts shouldn’t be politicized,” her statement read. “My father ignored medical expertise and now he has COVID.”
“It’s not worth following a president who has no remorse for leading his followers to an early grave,” she added.
Doctors fear Trump will lie about a vaccine to win the election
There is a fear among many that the so-called "October Surprise" won't be another international scandal at the White House, but President Donald Trump announcing a vaccine, whether there is one or not.
Washington Post political columnist Greg Sargent explained in his Monday column that scientists are issuing a warning in a series of New York Times interviews. Either Trump will like and announce a vaccine that isn't ready or he'll rush the process to ensure a vaccine is ready, whether it is or not. Some of the scientists even work for the American government and have updated information on the status of a vaccine.
GOP strategists fear a Kris Kobach nomination could cost Republicans greatly: ‘The Senate majority runs through Kansas’
In Kansas’ Republican senatorial primary, voters will choose between former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Rep. Roger Marshall — who some GOP strategists believe is by far the more electable of the two. And according to Politico’s James Arkin, one of the prominent Republicans who is sounding the alarm is Kevin McLaughlin, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Although Kobach and Marshall are both hard-right politically, Kobach is more extreme — so extreme that even in deep red Kansas, he lost a gubernatorial race to a centrist Democrat in the 2018 midterms. That Democrat, Laura Kelly, is now governor of Kansas, where Kobach was a leading promoter of the racist “birther” conspiracy theory during the 2010s.