Environmental groups sue Trump administration over chemical disaster prevention rollback

Environmental groups sue Trump administration over chemical disaster prevention rollback
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A coalition of environmental groups is suing the Trump administration over its easing of chemical plant safety regulations following a recent plant explosion in Texas that injured several people. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month finalized a rule that it said would get rid of "unnecessary and ineffective regulatory burdens," a change that was sought by industry groups and firms. 

The coalition of 13 groups challenging the rule argued in a Thursday statement, however, that the change would put millions of people who live near chemical facilities "in harm’s way."

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"We are fighting for the lives and safety of our families and workers. Our lives are more valuable than the bottom line of a few chemical barons," the organizations said. 

The suit comes weeks after a chemical plant in Port Neches, Texas, exploded.

According to the statement, eight people were injured and about 50,000 were displaced. 

"Without the Chemical Disaster Rule, this plant won’t have to conduct an assessment of safer alternatives for the plants’ operations, be subject to an independent safety audit, apply lessons learned from this incident to prevent future problems, or even train all supervisors responsible for managing dangerous chemical processes," the statement said. 

The EPA has defended its changes, saying that they tackle security risks and improve coordination with facilities and emergency responders. 

"Accident prevention is a top priority of the EPA and this rule promotes improved coordination between chemical facilities and emergency responders, reduces unnecessary regulatory burdens, and addresses security risks associated with previous amendments to the RMP [risk management program] rule,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement last month. 

The 13 groups suing the EPA are Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, Coalition For A Safe Environment, California Communities Against Toxics, Del Amo Action Committee, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Air Alliance Houston, Community In-Power & Development Association, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, Clean Air Council, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. 

They are represented by attorneys from Earthjustice. 

"Now that Trump’s EPA has decided to try again to gut these protections, and put chemical companies’ preferences over the safety of children in danger zones, we have no choice but to go to court," lawyer Emma Cheuse said in the statement.