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January 25, 2023

Barragán and Booker Call on EPA to Further Strengthen Safety Standards to Prevent Chemical Disasters and Protect Workers


25 January 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) led X of their colleagues in urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan 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.

EPA’s RMP regulates close to 12,000 facilities that make, use, or store hazardous chemicals.  Recent chemical disasters have highlighted flaws in current RMP regulations and a failure to protect workers and the communities surrounding hazardous chemical facilities.

The letter sent today is in follow-up to an April 2022 letter sent by Congresswoman Barragán and Senator Booker, and signed by 29 Members of Congress, urging the EPA to release an updated RMP Rule that protects workers and communities. In August of 2022, the EPA released the proposed new RMP Rule which made significant improvements to the current EPA’s RMP regulations. However, the rule can go further to ensure strong safeguards and protections for workers, first responders, and communities living near the facilities that are disproportionately communities of color.

“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,” wrote Congresswoman Barragán and Senator Booker in the letter to EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “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.”

Congresswoman Barragán and Senator Booker 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.

“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.”

In the House, the letter is co-signed by Representatives Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), André Carson (D-IN), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), John Garamendi (D-CA), Robert Garcia (D-CA), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Val Hoyle (D-OR), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Mary Scanlon (D-PA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Jill Tokuda (D-HI), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

In the Senate, the letter is co-signed by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The letter is supported by the BlueGreen Alliance, United Steelworkers, United Automobile Workers, New Jersey Work Environment Council, Earthjustice, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, and Coming Clean.