“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.”
Ken Starr is an awful choice for Trump’s legal team because he’ll look like a hypocrite: Former federal prosecutor
President Donald Trump has a severe hypocrisy problem, and it has extended to his legal team. In a CNN explainer answering legal questions from viewers, former state and federal prosecutor Eli Honig explained that the choice of Ken Starr for Trump's legal team was a terrible idea.
Trump has chosen lawyers that are like a Fox News legal discussion panel. Pat Cipollone, Alan Dershowitz, Robert Wray, Pam Bondi and Jay Sekulow are all key people Trump has called on to defend him. But one person stands out, Honig explained. Ken Starr.
"He may emerge as a symbol of hypocrisy," Honig said. "He was the independent counsel who pursued Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Ken Starr turned over Heaven and Earth in his investigation of Bill Clinton. He talked to everyone who ever had known Monica Lewinsky, ex-boyfriends, teachers, window washers. And here he's going to say you shouldn't be hearing from primary witnesses?"
‘Comparing yourself to terrorists?’ Internet cracks up at Trump saying dead 9-11 hijackers got more justice than him
President Donald Trump quoted Fox News host Mark Levin that left many scratching their heads. Levin, who has a show on Sunday evenings, claimed that the terrorists from Sept. 11 got more due process than the president.
The claim was a curious one because, as many on Twitter noted, it's not often that the president of the United States compares himself to a terrorist. Secondly, the 9-11 hijackers all died in the attack, as they were on the planes that crashed into the buildings and into a Pennsylvania field.
Trump is known to quote Levin frequently, though the citations often make the president look worse.
If people of color showed up to a Capitol protest heavily armed — Trump would call them terrorists: commentator
Legal analyst Areva Martin explained in a CNN panel discussion Sunday that the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday has historically been a day in which white supremacists rear their ugly heads with racist protests and other public displays of bigotry. Monday's expected rally of racist gun nuts expected at the Virginia capitol is no different.
Colorblind author Tim Wise said that it's a whole different level with pro-gun activists. He noted that there was a message from the NRA that former President Barack Obama was going to take everyone's guns away. Of course, that never happened, but it was part of the narrative to scare sensible gun owners. Now, President Donald Trump is employing the same idea, saying that the rally of racists in Virginia is being spun by the president as another Democratic power-grab. Wise called it a kind of "front-lash" instead of "backlash."