Two Years After West Disaster, Are Our Communities Any Safer?

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By Anya Vanecek, Public Health Digital Campaigner, U.S. PIRG

Two years ago today (April 17th, 2013), a fertilizer plant explosion devastated West, Texas. Fifteen people died, including 12 volunteer firefighters. The blast demolished an apartment building and nursing home, and damaged three nearby schools. In the two years since, there have been over 350 other preventable chemical accidents.

To this day, the EPA has failed to take action to protect our communities from future preventable chemical disasters.

President Obama acted immediately, issuing an executive order that called for better safety and security standards for chemical facilities. “The handling and storage of chemicals present serious risks that must be addressed,” he noted. Yet, federal agencies’ response has been lethargic, at best. The EPA won’t begin rulemaking until September 2015 and they’ve set no date for completion.

Groups have called for a strong national rule requiring chemical facilities to use the safest cost-effective technology available. “Preventing chemical accidents isn’t rocket science,” said Carli Jensen, Toxics Program Coordinator for U.S. PIRG. “Chemical facilities simply need to switch to less dangerous alternatives. Some already have.”

The voluntary safety standards set by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates (SOCMA) aren’t enough to protect us, though. The ExxonMobil refinery explosion in Torrance, California this year and the deadly leak at DuPont’s LaPorte, Texas chemical plant in 2014 make that clear.

President Obama called switching to safer chemicals and procedures “common sense steps” to keep our communities safe. Why is the EPA still mulling that over?

“We need the EPA to work quickly to make a strong rule that protects our communities from dangerous chemical facilities,” said Carli. “Doing so will show that they’ve learned something from the West, Texas explosion and the 350 accidents since then.”

You can help. Please, sign our petition to the EPA asking them not to wait any longer to set the chemical safety rules we need to protect our community.

Originally posted here.