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United Steelworkers Union Sues to Reverse EPA Weakening of Safety Rule at Chemical Plants

Jun 25, 2020

Pennsauken, NJ (Law Firm Newswire) June 25, 2020 – The United Steelworkers, the largest U.S. industrial union, filed a suit in federal court to reverse the weakening of a safety rule implemented during the Obama administration. The Chemical Disaster Rule aimed to reduce risks and improve safety at chemical plants.

The Chemical Disaster Rule set stricter requirements in place for chemical plants. The measure followed an explosion in 2013 in a West Texas fertilizer plant that killed 15 people, including 12 firefighters. The blast injured many more and damaged more than 500 homes.

In January 2017, before President Donald Trump assumed office, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced several changes to risk management plans companies submit to the EPA. These included requiring more analysis of a company’s safety technology, more third-party audits, incident investigation analyses and stricter emergency preparedness mandates.

After President Trump took office, a coalition of chemical and energy industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council and American Petroleum Institute, submitted a petition to the EPA to delay and reconsider the Obama-era amendments.

The new rule, finalized in November 2019, eased requirements that chemical plant owners consider safer alternatives to various technologies, obtain third-party audits to verify compliance with accident prevention rules, conduct root cause analyses following incidents, and disclose certain information to communities about their operations. The new rule also delayed the dates of implementation of provisions on coordination with local emergency services and emergency situation exercises.

The new rule comes two years after the EPA sought to suspend the rule. In March 2018, a federal judge reinstated the rule.

The United Steelworkers Union says recent incidents at facilities prompted its lawsuit. In June 2019, a fire and explosions rocked a Philadelphia Energy Solution oil refinery. The union’s suit is the latest litigation aimed at stopping the relaxing of the chemical safety rules. In December, a coalition of environmental and science organizations sued the EPA in federal court, alleging the weakening of the Chemical Disaster Rule violates the Clean Air Act.

Many workers are exposed to the risk of fires and explosions at chemical plants. Workers’ compensation laws provide compensation to injured workers and benefits to dependents of workers killed in accidents at chemical plants. To learn more about the rights of workers injured in chemical plants, talk to a workers’ compensation lawyer at Petrillo and Goldberg at 856.249.9295

Petrillo & Goldberg Law

6951 North Park Drive
Pennsauken, NJ 08109

19 South 21st Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

70 South Broad Street
Woodbury, NJ 08096

Phone: 856-486-4343
Fax: 856:486-7979

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