The United Steelworkers Thursday announced that it filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government's decision to repeal risk management requirements regulating the storage of dangerous chemicals.
“Eliminating these requirements will allow a profit-hungry industry to police itself while putting workers, first responders and the public at risk,” said USW International President Tom Conway. “The USW spent years advocating for the Chemical Disaster Rule. Thousands of our members signed petitions imploring the EPA not to gut it. Now, we’re going to court to protect our members and our communities.”
The USW’s lawsuit asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to implement the Chemical Disaster Rule as the EPA originally wrote it, before the current administration took office.
The USW and other safety advocates called for stronger regulation following a string of deadly incidents, including the 2005 fire and explosions at BP’s Texas City, Texas, oil refinery that killed 15 contractors, and the 2010 fire and blast at Tesoro’s Anacortes, Wash., refinery that killed a supervisor and six workers represented by the USW.
One of the first actions of the Trump administration in 2016 was to put the new EPA rules on hold. Since then the rules have been bogged down in a tenacious legal fight that appeared to be coming to a resolution when, in August 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court issued a ruling vacating the EPA’s delaying action on enforcement.
However, in November 2019 the Trump administration made the legal argument mute by officially repealing many of the risk management requirements, charging them as being costly and burdensome. Gone are many of the requirements that industry coordinate response needs with local emergency planning and response organizations.
Also rescinded were provisions that would have allowed greater public access to that planning and information about the hazards involved.
The USW cited recent incidents such as the explosions and fires at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery fire in Philadelphia and the TPC Group chemical plant in Port Neches, Texas as examples why more stringent protections are needed.
The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.