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Demand strong protections against chemical disasters

Supporters Spoke up in this Action
Delivery to the Environmental Protection Agency

Action Ended On

July 30, 2021

What Happens Next

Thank you to all who took action! We have submitted the comments to the Environmental Protection Agency for review. We're grateful for your support.

What was at Stake

Over 100 times per year, facilities using or storing toxic chemicals catch fire, explode, or release hazardous substances into the air. Exposure to these chemicals can cause immediate death or injury, reproductive, developmental, and respiratory damage, along with cancer and other harm to the nervous, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems. 177 million people (half the United States population) live close enough to facilities that could, at any moment, have a disaster and damage their health irreparably.

Chemical disasters are a serious example of environmental injustice — the harmful impacts on health and safety from these disasters are not shared equally. Hazardous facilities like petroleum refineries, chemical plants, and petrochemical plants have long been disproportionately located in Black and Latinx communities and the chemical industry has consistently failed to address environmental racism. In response, communities across the country organized to protect their health and the Obama administration issued new protections in late 2016 — but the Trump EPA rolled them back and now stronger safety measures than ever before are urgently needed.

Fortunately, the Biden administration has begun the process to finally protect our health by starting a new rulemaking. Join us in urging the administration to develop a robust, new Chemical Disaster Rule that ends the dangerous cycle of chemical disasters in our communities.

  • Everyday disaster prevention requirements to provide environmental justice by eliminating and reducing hazards for fenceline communities and workers wherever possible.
  • Climate and natural disaster planning and mitigation measures to ensure facilities do all they can to prevent the double impact from chemical disasters for communities in hurricane, flooding, extreme weather, and earthquake prone areas — like implementing back-up power and eliminating hazards in disaster-prone areas.
  • Preparing before a disaster hits with emergency response preparation that assures worker training and gives communities advance notification and information in multiple languages, and requires fenceline monitoring and alerts, to prevent and reduce harm.
  • Design the rules to assure compliance, enforceability and accountability, through reporting, transparency, fast compliance deadlines, and strong implementation including in air permits.
  • Protect more people and more communities from chemical disasters by expanding the program’s coverage to more chemicals and to more hazardous facilities.

We need these protections. Once again, we must be organized and vocal in defense of our health and safety — because industries are unwilling to do what is necessary to protect the communities in which they operate and should not be allowed to set the terms for how they are regulated. Join us in calling on the Biden administration to create a strong new Chemical Disaster Rule by submitting a short comment.

An industrial accident caused a massive fire at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, Calif., on August 5, 2012.
Stephen Schiller / CC By-NC 2.0

An industrial accident caused a massive fire at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, Calif., on August 5, 2012.

Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

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You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue. Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn more about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.