All over Texas and the U.S., there are thousands of facilities that could blow up or leak deadly poison gases. The secret that the chemical industry does not want you to know is that these dangers are preventable.
There are safer chemical processes, such as improving barriers, containment structures, safety training, and switching to inherently safer strategies such as reducing the quantity of hazardous materials and changing the design processes to reduce or eliminate toxic chemicals when possible.
These techniques can reduce the possibility of catastrophes to the surrounding community.
t.e.j.a.s. is highly engaged in the campaign to prevent chemical facility disasters as part of the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters. We have been focused on this issue for years in coordination with many allies, including the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform. The disaster in April 2013 at a fertilizer facility in West, Texas that claimed 15 lives and destroyed an entire neighborhood was a tragic reminder of why change on this issue is so badly needed.
On August 1, 2013, President Obama issued an Executive Order (#13650) on chemical security, for the first time requiring federal agencies to develop and submit plans to address and prevent disasters, and setting a specific timeline for development of proposals and decisions. This is a major accomplishment and opportunity, which we must seize if we want to help create real differences on the ground in some of the most impacted communities, such as here on Houston’s East End.
This is our chance to show the overwhelming public support for safer chemicals and safer processes and demand strong action by the Administration to protect communities and workers and prevent disasters.
Every day, millions of people across the country live and work in the shadow of 12,440 high-risk chemical plants that store and use highly hazardous chemicals with the potential to kill or injure thousands of workers and community residents.
Eighty-nine of these facilities each put more than 1 million people at risk.
These communities are more likely to be low-income communities and communities of color, who already experience disproportionate health impacts linked to chemical exposures.
Texas leads the nation with 101 facilities that each endanger over 100,000 people.
Safer chemicals and processes are already widely available. Since 2001, hundreds of chemical facilities have switched and eliminated risks to 40 million people in 47 states.
But voluntary efforts are not enough. 100 million people in the U.S. are still at risk near the most dangerous facilities.
WE NEED ACTION NOW
Workers and communities endangered by these facilities can’t wait any longer. We need to stop cleaning up after disasters and take action to prevent them.
EPA proposed new requirements in 2002 – over ten years ago – that could prevent many chemical disasters, but no action has been taken to implement them.
The President and EPA should use the authority they have under the Clean Air Act to require high-risk facilities to switch to safer chemicals and processes whenever they are available and effective.
For more information:
- Executive Order 13650: Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Webpage on Executive Order 13650
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Webpage on Executive Order 13650
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chemical Safety Information
- OPINION: Much Work Remains In West, by Juan Parras
- Knowledge Is Key, by Michelle Roberts
- Let’s pass toxic chemical reforms — but let’s do it right, by Tiffany Immingan