11 state attorneys general sue EPA over chemical rule delay

11 state attorneys general sue EPA over chemical rule delay
The Environmental Protection Agency delayed the implementation of a chemical safety rule put in place by the Obama administration. Now, 11 states have banded together to fight back against the agency’s decision.

The states filed a petition with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and claim that the EPA administrator Scott Pruitt exceeded his authority when he delayed the Accidental Release Prevention Requirements set forth by the outgoing administration of former President Barack Obama. Pruitt signed the directive that delayed the rules on July 21.

Pruitt’s directive delays the rule from being put in place until at least June 20, 2019. The new Accidental Release Prevention Requirements were supposed to be enacted on March 14, The Hill reported.

Led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D), the attorneys general included in the lawsuit are from, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

The rules that were delayed by Pruitt required updated risk management plan regulations, including additional safeguards in accident prevention programs and a “root cause” analysis with third-party audits after an accident.

The regulations mentioned in the safety rules also cover preventing explosions, fires and poisonous gas that could be released at more than 12,000 chemical facilities around the country, according to the Associated Press.

The lawsuit says that there have been accidents at over 1,500 facilities all across the US, which include 30 in New York in the past decade. These incidents have resulted in the deaths of 58 people and 17,099 who have been injured or have sought medical treatment. After a 2013 explosion at a chemical plant in Texas, which killed 15 people, officials moved forward to overhaul chemical safety standards.

Schneiderman spoke about the EPA’s delay of the rules and said that it is “simply outrageous to block these common sense protections.”

“Protecting our workers, first-responders, and communities from chemical accidents should be something on which we all agree,” he said, the Daily News reported. “Yet the Trump EPA continues to put special interests before the health and safety of the people they serve.”

In February, after the confirmation of Pruitt to head the EPA, chemical companies wrote a letter to him saying that the rule would create “significant security concerns and compliance issues that will cause irreparable harm," according to The Hill.

The EPA has said that it received 54,117 responses after seeking public comment on whether to delay the rule in March, which led them to their final decision to hold off on implementing it.

The EPA chief defended the decision in a statement.

“We are seeking additional time to review the program, so that we can fully evaluate the public comments raised by multiple petitioners and consider other issues that may benefit from additional public input," he said, The Hill reported.

The attorneys general say that lobbying from the gas and chemical companies ultimately led the EPA to reject the safeguards from being implemented.