EPA chief defends chemical rule delay after Texas plant explosions

EPA chief defends chemical rule delay after Texas plant explosions
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittZinke under federal investigation for speech to NHL team: report Overnight Regulation: Senate panel approves driverless car bill | House bill to change joint-employer rule advances | Treasury to withdraw proposed estate tax rule | Feds delaying Obama methane leak rule Overnight Energy: Dems take on Trump's chemical safety pick MORE on Friday defended his decision to delay a major chemical plant safety regulation.

The EPA has faced criticism on the decision following multiple explosions last week at Arkema Inc.’s plant in Crosby, Texas, which flooded from Hurricane Harvey.

The Risk Management Plan rule, written under the Obama administration and delayed by Pruitt, would not likely have prevented the incident, but it may have helped first responders to avoid injuring themselves by inhaling noxious fumes.

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Pruitt said he had good reasons to delay the regulation, arguing the new standards for risk management plans would have helped terrorists find out what substances are at plants.

“These chemical plants are terrorist opportunities as well. They present soft targets to terrorists who come in and do something pretty bad in those communities,” Pruitt said on ABC News’s Power House Politics podcast.

“And so what you’ve got to do is strike the balance in what’s in that RMP, so that you’re not informing terrorists and helping them have data that they shouldn’t have.”

The EPA chief said he supports requiring risk management plans, and his intent in delaying and revising the rule is not to abolish that mandate.

“It was never about and isn’t about doing away with RMPs, or making it so that citizens aren’t aware of what they need to know to evacuate or deal with concerns," he said.

Pruitt also indicated that Arkema may have violated existing risk management plan regulations. The explosions happened after the chemicals broke down, since they needed to be refrigerated, but the plant lost the power to refrigerate them.

He said the EPA is examining whether Arkema’s risk management plan required it to have redundant power supplies that would have prevented the incidents.

That could lead to further investigation or enforcement action by the agency, Pruitt said.

“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but know that those things are being considered.”

The Chemical Safety Board, an independent agency that investigates chemical disasters, is conducting its own probe into the explosions.

The Obama administration rule faced opposition from Texas leaders, Republicans and the chemical industry, including Arkema, which pushed the EPA to delay and revise it.