AG Ferguson successfully challenges Administration’s delay of facility safety rule

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Tesoro fire 2010 Anacortes
Photo by Emma Schwartz, The Center for Public Integrity

Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued the following statement after a federal appeals court agreed with Ferguson and 10 other attorneys general that the Trump Administration’s delay of the Chemical Disaster Rule violated the Clean Air Act. The Chemical Disaster Rule updates important safety requirements for large industrial facilities that handle hazardous chemicals.

In its decision, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit used unusually harsh language to criticize EPA. For example, the court wrote that EPA’s reason for delaying the Chemical Disaster Rule “makes a mockery of the statute.” By delaying the rule, the court said, EPA “delayed life-saving protections.”

“Washingtonians have first-hand experience with the types of disasters this rule was designed to prevent,” Ferguson said of his latest victory against the Trump Administration. “I won’t allow the Trump Administration to ignore the law to advance the interests of the oil and chemical industry, at the expense of worker safety.”

Ferguson has now filed 32 lawsuits against the Trump Administration and has not lost a case. Ferguson has 13 legal victories against the Trump Administration. Seven of those cases are finished and cannot be appealed. The Trump Administration has appealed or may appeal the other six, which include lawsuits involving Dreamers, 3D-printed guns, and the transgender military ban. No court to rule on the merits of the Attorney General’s arguments in a lawsuit against the Trump Administration has ruled against the office.

The Chemical Disaster Rule was prompted by a number of high-profile accidents around the nation, including the 2010 Tesoro refinery explosion in Anacortes. That explosion — specifically cited by the Environmental Protection Agency in its development of the new rule — claimed the lives of seven workers.

The Chemical Disaster Rule aims to reduce the threat of chemical releases with new standards and required safety audits, in addition to bolstering emergency preparedness. The rule applies to more than 12,000 facilities nationwide, including refineries, chemical manufacturers and others that use, store or have the potential to release highly hazardous chemicals.

Once a rule is finalized, the Clean Air Act allows for a 90-day delay to reconsider it in response to litigation. Beyond 90 days, the act clearly states that “reconsideration shall not postpone the effectiveness of the rule.”

The Chemical Disaster Rule was finalized on Jan. 13, 2017. On Jan. 26, under the Trump Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency delayed its effective date for 60 days — along with 29 other environmental regulations — shortly after the president took office. The Trump Administration postponed the 30 environmental regulations without providing an opportunity for public comment.

After the initial delay on Jan. 26, the Trump Administration postponed the Chemical Disaster Rule twice more while it reconsidered the rule.

The New York Attorney General's office led a coalition of 11 attorneys general who sued over the EPA's delay of the rule. In addition to Washington, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont also joined the lawsuit.


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