Philadelphia, state join suit against EPA over chemical-safety rules at industrial sites

Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery on August 8, 2019. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery on August 8, 2019. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Philadelphia and Pennsylvania sued the Environmental Protection Protection Agency Wednesday in a challenge to the agency’s rollback of an Obama-era chemical safety rule related to industrial facilities like the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery complex.

The city and state joined 13 other states and the District of Columbia in a federal lawsuit that says the new rules violate the Clean Air Act.

Patrick O’Neill, divisional deputy for environmental law for the city, said the EPA wants to reverse a common-sense rule regulating facilities that use highly toxic chemicals.

“We think this is a very important effort and, given what happened at the PES refinery, this is absolutely not the correct time to be rolling back protections for the public and the environment,” O’Neill said.

The EPA’s Risk Management Plan Rule governs public disclosures surrounding the use and accidental release of toxic chemicals, such as the deadly hydrofluoric acid released during the explosion last June at PES, as well as response.

The Obama administration had boosted those rules, but the Trump administration’s EPA announced a rollback of some of those new provisions, including the requirement of industry to assess the use of safer alternatives to chemicals like hydrofluoric acid, as well as the requirement that the EPA conduct an independent investigation into the release.

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