Please sign on to memo requesting President Obama to expedite regulations to improve chemical facility safety and security

Dear Moving Forward Network members and friends,

As you may know, t.e.j.a.s. has been working with a coalition on Chemical Security, listed on the bottom of the letter below, long before President Obama signed Executive Order 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security.

Today, we are issuing a request to coalition members and groups that have worked with us in the past to join us in signing the attached letter addressed to President Obama on Chemical Security and Safety.  The deadline is this coming Monday at midnight, 3-2-2015.  

The impacts of this piece of legislation are critically important for all of us, but of utmost importance to we who live on the fence-line of industrial facilities that could potentially harm thousands or tens of thousands of people.  

Please sign your organization on to the letter (below) to President Obama ASAP by sending your name (CEO if you can) organization name, and location by close of business Monday to:

Thanks for your participation.  

Juan Parras


Dear President Obama,

We write to strongly urge you to take prompt, decisive action to address a danger you have highlighted for a decade – the threat to our communities and workers from accidents or deliberate attacks on U.S. chemical plants.  Your Administration is running out of time to make a real difference on this critical issue.

We were grateful when, after the tragic West, Texas disaster in April 2013, you issued an Executive order (EO), “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security” (#13650) which included directing federal agencies to modernize safety regulations. As a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering revisions to its Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations, but it has postponed proposing them until September.  We believe this schedule will jeopardize finalizing a rule before you leave office and therefore needs to be accelerated.

Your past leadership on preventing chemical disasters has been unparalleled. The millions of men, women and children living, studying, playing and working within high risk zones near hundreds of chemical facilities are counting on you to prevent future tragedies.  To ensure that new rules do take effect, they must be finalized well in advance of the end of your administration’s term in office.

EPA’s RMP data, first reported in 1999, exposed the overwhelming danger of these hazards to workers, first responders, children and surrounding communities. In 2006, as a senator, you stated emphatically, “these plants are stationary weapons of mass destruction spread all across the country.”  According to a December 2014 Congressional Research Service analysis, 466 of these facilities each puts 100,000 or more people at risk of a catastrophic disaster.

Fortunately, safer cost-effective chemical processes are widely available. Since 2001, hundreds of chemical facilities have switched to safer chemical processes and eliminated these risks to 40 million people in 47 states. For example, in 2012, the Clorox Company completed conversion of all of its U.S. facilities to a safer manufacturing process. While this is encouraging, reliance solely on voluntary efforts has left more than 100 million people in the U.S. at risk of death or injury because they live and work inside “vulnerability zones” surrounding the high risk chemical facilities.

Section 112(r)(7)(A) of the Clean Air Act provides the EPA with rule-making authority to prevent future tragedies by requiring chemical facility owners and operators to use, where feasible, safer processes that will reduce or eliminate the consequences of a catastrophic chemical incident.  Safer processes are the only foolproof way to eliminate or dramatically reduce the loss of human life in such an event, whether it is triggered by an accident, natural disaster, or terrorism.

These catastrophic hazards became obvious following the 9/11 attacks and after every attack since. In 2002, the EPA under then-administrator Christine Todd Whitman proposed using the Clean Air Act’s disaster prevention authority to make chemical facilities “inherently safer by reducing quantities of hazardous chemicals handled or stored, substituting less hazardous chemicals for extremely hazardous ones, or otherwise modifying the design of processes to reduce or eliminate chemical hazards.”  Tragically, the Bush administration, under pressure from special interest lobbyists, scuttled this proposal.

In your 2008 book Change We Can Believe In you promised, “An Obama Administration will…[s]ecure our chemical plants by setting a clear set of federal regulations that all plants must follow, including improving barriers, containment, mitigation and safety training, and wherever possible, using safer technology, such as less toxic chemicals.”

On April 3, 2012, Governor Whitman wrote EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging the use of “authorities you can apply to reduce these hazards before a tragedy of historic proportions occurs.” And following the West, Texas, disaster, then-EPA Administrator Jackson told MSNBC, “We need to use the authority we have now.”

Due to the billions of dollars of potential liability, the Association of American Railroads issued a statement in 2008 saying, “It’s time for the big chemical companies to do their part to help protect America. They should stop manufacturing dangerous chemicals when safer substitutes are available…”  More recently, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board recommended that the EPA issue new rules under the EPA’s Clean Air Act authority in their May 1, 2014 final report on the 2010 Tesoro refinery disaster.

We respectfully urge you to use your authority to expedite finalizing a rule that will eliminate these potentially catastrophic hazards wherever feasible.  As organizations committed to this objective, we look to your office to ensure that this critical rule is finalized as soon as possible.

Thank you.


Lee Anderson, BlueGreen Alliance
Ron White, Center for Effective Government
Judy Robinson, Coming Clean
David LeGrande, Communications Workers of America
Michele Roberts, Environmental Justice Health Alliance
Rick Hind, Greenpeace
David Halperin, Attorney
Richard Moore, Los Jardines Institute
Trisha Sheehan, Moms Clean Air Force
Gerald Poje, Society for Occupational and Environmental Health
Juan Parras, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Service
Sam Loesche, Teamsters
Yogin Kathan, Union of Concerned Scientists
Michael Wright, United Steelworkers
Carli Jenson, U.S. Public Interest Research Group

Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator Edward Markey
Senator Tom Udall
Senator Cory Booker
Representative Frank Pallone

Gina McCarthy Administrator, EPA