United Steelworkers sues EPA over weakening of chemical safety rule


FILE PHOTO: A United Steelworkers flag flies outside the Local 1299 union hall in Ecorse, Michigan, U.S., September 24, 2019. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The United Steelworkers sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in federal court on Thursday in a bid to reverse its gutting of a safety rule at chemical plants, the union said.

The largest U.S. industrial union’s lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia adds to previous litigation against the rollback of Obama-era chemical safety rules.

The Trump administration’s EPA in November released its “Risk Management Program,” which rids chemical plants of what EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said were “unnecessary regulatory burdens.”

The plan weakened the Obama-era 2017 Chemical Disaster Rule, which bolstered measures to reduce risk at chemical plants with measures like third-party audits and safety technology analysis. The measure was developed in the wake of a deadly 2013 explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant that killed 15 people.

“Eliminating these requirements will allow a profit-hungry industry to police itself while putting workers, first responders and the public at risk,” Tom Conway, the USW’s international president, said in a statement.

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The union said recent incidents at facilities where its members work prompted its lawsuit to reinstate the Chemical Disaster Rule, citing a fire and explosions at a Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery in June.

In December, a coalition of 13 environmental and science organizations sued the EPA in federal appeals court to challenge its crippling of the Chemical Disaster Rule, alleging violations of the Clean Air Act.

Reporting by Sebastien Malo; Editing by Dan Grebler

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