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AG Nessel Joins Coalition to Sue Trump Administration for Gutting Safety Protections for Chemical Accidents

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general and the city of Philadelphia on Wednesday in suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for gutting safeguards to prevent and limit injuries and deaths from dangerous chemical accidents.

The coalition is 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.   

“As public officials working in government, a top priority should always be the safety of our residents,” Nessel said. “The Environmental Protection Agency’s actions, in this case, unfortunately put our residents in harm’s way. Accidents can happen and they’re not always avoidable, but removing these safeguards provide even fewer assurances that people won’t be hurt or killed from unavoidable incidents.”

Under President Trump’s administration, the EPA in December 2019 finalized a rule that rolls back critical elements of the Chemical Disaster Rule, removing safeguards in accident prevention programs designed to protect communities. These changes included eliminating independent third-party audits and “root cause” analyses following accidents, as well as analyses of safer technology and alternatives that could prevent future accidents or lessen harm. The EPA also cut training requirements and requirements for facilities to share information with first responders and nearby communities about hazardous chemicals used onsite. 

Toxic chemical plants continue to have a potential for accidents that pose a serious danger to the public. Since a coalition of 12 attorneys general submitted extensive comments on the proposed rule in August 2018, accidents at facilities regulated under the RMP have occurred across the country, causing deaths, injuries and evacuations. In November 2019, the massive explosions at the TPC Group chemical plant in Port Neches, Texas, released toxic plumes of butadiene and other carcinogens into the air, injured at least eight people and required the evacuation of more than 60,000 residents from surrounding communities.  

The coalition’s petition was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The coalition includes Nessel and the attorneys general of New York, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and the city of Philadelphia.