Skip to Content

News Releases

News Release

Chemical Disaster in New Jersey? President Obama Executive Order “Listening Sessions”

Contact: Stephenie Hendricks, (415) 258-9151,

February 27, 2014 Listening Sessions held in Newark, NJ 

(In-Person and Teleconference)

Registration: 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.  

Sessions: 1:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. (Afternoon & Evening)*

Location: New Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), One Newark Center, Newark, NJ 07102

*Please note: The afternoon session (1:00pm-5:00pm) will be located on the 12th floor of the NJTPA and the evening session (6:00pm-8:00pm) will be located on the 17th floor.

 Please note: Registrations from the February 13th session were not automatically rolled over. We request that anyone interested in attending the February 27th session register by clicking on the appropriate link below.

In-Person Registration Link:

Teleconference Registration Link:

(Newark, NJ) Hidden toxic chemicals that are manufactured, stored, and transported throughout New Jersey are the focus of the “Listening Sessions” in Newark, as directed by an Executive Order  (EO) from President Obama called Executive Order 13650 - Improving Chemical Safety and Security. “Listening Sessions” are being held at various locations across the country. A chemical disaster in the New Jersey-New York area could kill or injure thousands of people within minutes according the US Naval Research Laboratory.

Deborah Kim Gaddy,  Environmental Justice Organizer with Clean Water Fund, member of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance and chair of the Newark Environmental Commission says, “Toxic chemicals are linked to cancer and respiratory problems, such as benzene and chloride, contaminate communities during train derailments, truck crashes, plant explosions and other incidents.  This is unacceptable to Newark residents! Why does chemical pollution related illness in communities of color have to be the “price of doing business” for chemical corporations and the downstream companies that carry their toxic products through our communities?”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking to the successes of an EPA Region 2 model program in New Jersey in place since 2008 that requires chemical facilities to consider inherently safer technologies (IST), such as safer chemicals, as a possible model for a federal IST policy. The current New Jersey program lacks the teeth to eliminate the hazards at the 90 facilities that put workers and communities at risk.

The EPA is one of three federal agencies that make up the Interagency Working Group on Executive Order 13650. The Obama administration has consistently advocated principles since 2009 which include requiring plants to implement IST where feasible at the highest risk plants like Kuehne  in South Kearny NJ.

"Unfortunately, in New Jersey there is evidence of a correlation between race, income, cumulative impacts and the amount of pollution in your neighborhood. We need to make sure that chemical catastrophes do not perpetuate or exacerbate this unacceptable relationship and that exposure from toxic pollutants is reduced in all neighborhoods,” says Nicky Sheats, PhD, Director, Center for Urban Environment of the John S Watson Institute for Public Policy and member of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance (NJEJA).

The EO was prompted in response to the West, Texas explosion that killed 15 people in April, 2013. Since then, there have been a multitude of plant explosions and train derailments. On January 9th, a West Virginia chemical spill devastated the watershed of 9 counties leaving 300,000 people without drinking water.

Just before Christmas 2013, an explosion at the Axiall plant  near Mossville, Louisiana sickened motorists driving by the plant, sending them to the hospital.

In June, 2013, a chemical explosion in Geismar, Louisiana, killed one and injured scores.

In 2012, the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California, exploded, sending over 15,000 people to the hospital.

Also that year, a train derailment in Paulsboro, New Jersey, spilled over 22,000 gallons of vinyl chloride into a creek, causing dozens of people to suffer respiratory harm from inhaling the toxic fumes. 

Michele Roberts, Co-Coordinator of the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance comments, “New Jersey,  Texas, Louisiana, West Virginia, and hundreds of other communities where chemical plants have been allowed to be built - or where roads or train tracks transport those chemicals have millions of people who are disproportionately people of color and low-income communities - live in harm’s way with chemical threats. States have failed to protect their residents. Federal protection is urgently needed to stop chemical harm now.” 

“So many people - particularly children and the elderly, in our communities of color nationwide - are suffering from chemical pollution and are the first ones to be harmed even more in chemical disasters. We demand that President Obama’s interagency task force - with the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor (OSHA), and the U.S. EPA, as well as state agencies, take responsibility to protect communities and workers from chemical disasters now,” adds Richard Moore, Co-Coordinator of Environmental Justice and Health Alliance, and former Chair of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


On January 3, the Federal Interagency Working Group overseeing the implementation of President Obama’s Executive Order 13650 - Improving Chemical Safety and Security released a preliminary list of options for policies, regulations, and standards to improve chemical facility safety and security. Existing federal and state programs are failing to protect workers and residents because none of the existing rules or safety standards require truly preventive measures. The new Working Group policy options list shows that both EPA and OSHA are considering new prevention requirements that include currently available and affordable safer chemicals and safer processes, which could be implemented using existing authorities. Community and labor representatives are continuing to call on the Administration to resist chemical and oil industry opposition to common-sense changes and adopt new policies that will prevent more disasters, ending over ten years of delay.

More listening sessions for President Obama’s Executive Order 13650

February 17, 2014: Baton Rouge, LA

January 23, 2014: Houston, TX

January 6, 2014: Sacramento, CA

November 13, 2013: Washington, DC

November 1, 2013: Houston, TX

Additional Resources

Coming Clean

Available for Comment

Deborah Kim Gaddy; Environmental Justice Organizer, Clean Water Fund ; Member, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance ; Chair, Newark Environmental Commission; (973) 420-7925,

Michele Roberts; Co-Coordinator, Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform; (202) 704-7593, Michele can discuss the disproportionate impacts from toxic chemicals on communities of color.

Nicky Sheats, PhD; Director, Center for Urban Environment at the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy of Thomas Edison Sate College; Member, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance ; (609) 882-5841,

Richard Moore; Los Jardines Institute; Co-Chair, Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform; (505) 301-0276, Richard can talk about environmental justice issues and organizing in the Southwest, and TSCA reform.  Habla Espanol.

# # #