Booker, Barragán Lead 47 Congressional Colleagues in Urging EPA to Further Strengthen Prevention and Safety Standards to Prevent Chemical Disasters
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and U.S. Representative Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA-44th) urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen its proposed Risk Management Program (RMP) Rule to ensure the strongest possible safeguards at high-risk chemical facilities and protections for workers, environmental justice communities, and first responders. 47 other Senators and members of the House of Representatives co-signed the letter.
EPA’s RMP regulates close to 12,000 facilities that make, use, or store hazardous chemicals, and recent chemical disasters have highlighted shortcomings in the existing RMP regulations that fail to sufficiently protect workers and communities living near hazardous chemical facilities. Today’s letter is a follow-up to Senator Booker and Representative Barragán’s April 2022 letter, which urged the EPA to propose an updated RMP rule with robust prevention and safety standards to prevent chemical disasters. EPA released the proposed rule in August 2022, which makes significant and needed updates, but the proposed rule can be further strengthened to ensure stronger safeguards.
“We are encouraged by the steps that EPA has taken with this proposed rule toward protecting communities from the danger of chemical disasters, and we urge the agency to further strengthen the rule in several key ways,” wrote Senator Booker and Representative Barragán in the letter to EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “As many of us wrote to you in April of last year, the updated RMP rule should prioritize hazard reduction and prevention measures, including transitioning to inherently safer chemicals and processes and requiring third-party audits to verify compliance.”
To prioritize prevention in updates to the RMP rule and ensure protections for Americans living near RMP facilities, Senator Booker and Representative Barragán advised the EPA that “the final rule should improve requirements for outreach to inform the public about RMP facility hazards and emergency response plans before and during incidental releases, and require that this information be made available in multiple languages. To foster information access and transparency, EPA should maintain a publicly accessible RMP database and commit to delivering that database on the fastest possible timeline.”
Senator Booker and Representative Barragán also pointed out additional steps the EPA can take to strengthen the RMP rule.
“We also note concerns about air monitoring and control equipment being removed from service before extreme weather events, as occurred during Hurricane Harvey, which leaves community members and regulators in the dark as to the full extent of air pollution and chemical disasters that may be exacerbated by extreme weather and/or power loss. The final rule can be strengthened by requiring penalties for intentionally removing air monitoring and control equipment from service, including before extreme weather events,” concluded the members of Congress.
The letter is co-signed by: U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR); U.S. Representatives Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA-29), André Carson (D-IN-07), Steve Cohen (D-TN-09), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA-10), Debbie Dingell (D-MI-06), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-13), John Garamenda (D-CA-08), Robert Garcia (D-CA-42), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-07), Val Hoyle (D-OR-04), Jared Huffman (D-CA-02), Ro Khanna (D-CA-17), Barbara Lee (D-CA-12), Doris Matsui (D-CA-07), Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), Jerry Nadler (D-NY-12), Grace Napolitano (D-CA-31), Eleanor Norton (D-DC), Mark Pocan (D-WI-02), Jamie Raskin (D-MD-08), Mary Scanlon (D-PA-05), Adam Smith (D-WA-09), Melanie Stansbury (D-NM-01), Haley Stevens (D-MI-11), Dina Titus (D-NV-01), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-12), Jill Tokuda (D-HI-02), Paul Tonko (D-NY-20), Maxine Waters (D-CA-43), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12).
The letter is supported by BlueGreen Alliance, United Steelworkers, United Auto Workers, New Jersey Work Environment Council, Earthjustice, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, and Coming Clean.
The full text of the letter can be found here.