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Greens start legal battle with fossil fuel lobbyists over chemical plant safety regulations

18 April 2017

According to CNN, the Union for Concerned Scientists, Sierra Club and Earthjustice jointly filed a motion on April 13 to intervene in a lawsuit filed by fossil fuel groups in March that asks the Environmental Protection Agency to delay new regulations on chemical plants, introduced in response to the 2013 fertiliser plant explosion in West, Texas, that killed 15 and injured more than 160.

A Union of Concerned Scientists spokesman said the action was taken because the new Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) head, Scott Pruitt, had a history of opposing some of the new regulations.

Pruitt and 10 other attorneys general, including Florida's Pam Bondi, asked the EPA to consider national security concerns in the regulations. One would allow the public to inquire about the nature of the chemicals held at facilities nearby. Supporters of the requirement argued the knowledge would help public safety and readiness, but Pruitt and others argued the information could make the facilities targets for terrorism.

"The safety of these manufacturing, processing and storage facilities should be a priority for us all, but safety encompasses more than preventing accidental releases of chemicals, it also encompasses preventing intentional releases caused by bad actors seeking to harm our citizens," Pruitt said in the letter.

The EPA regulations on chemical plants came to fruition following an Obama-era executive order signed in 2013 to revisit those regulations following the West Texas accident. The regulations are also intended to improve coordination between facilities and first responders.

In March though, a group of fossil fuel groups including the American Chemistry Council, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufactures and American Petroleum institute sued the EPA to petition a review of the final rule, arguing in the suit it is "unlawful, arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not otherwise in accordance with law."

Additionally, the group asked the EPA to consider a 90-day freeze on implementing the rule, which it granted. The group is now asking EPA to consider an additional two-year delay on the rule's implementation.


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