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Preventing Chemical Disasters


Obama’s Executive Order on Chemical Facility Safety and Security

On June 5, 2014, the Interagency Working Group on Chemical Facility Safety and Security issued its report to President Obama on Executive Order 13650, including recommendations 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 recommendations indicate 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.

“Executive Order 13650 Actions to Improve Chemical Facility Safety and Security: A shared commitment” Read the full report and recommendations fact sheet.

Environmental Justice and Health Alliance responds: It’s time to put action to words. Read the press release

Recent Chemical Disasters

January 9, 2014: Massive chemical spill in West Virginia devastated the watershed of 9 counties leaving 300,000 people without drinking water — Huffington Post

December 21, 2013: Explosion at the Axiall chemical plant in Westlake, Louisiana caused a large fire that sent toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. Twelve motorists were admitted to local hospitals for respiratory treatment — American Press

July 11, 2013: Thousands of East Bay residents were ordered to stay in their homes with the windows and doors closed Monday night after a series of explosions and fires tore through Chevron's refinery in Richmond, California — San Francisco Chronicle

June 13, 2013: Chemical plant explosion in Geismar, Louisiana killed one person and injured scores, forcing authorities to ask people as far as 2 miles away to stay inside to avoid exposure to potentially toxic fumes — CNN

April 17, 2013: An explosion with the force of a small earthquake rocked the Central Texas farming town of West, Texas, killing 15 people, including a dozen first responders, and injured more than 300 — Dallas Morning News

August 7, 2012: An explosion at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California, sent over 15,000 people to the hospital — Associated Press

Reports and Fact Sheets on Chemical Security Issues

“Who’s in Danger? Demographic analysis of chemical disaster vulnerability zones,” May 1, 2014: This report from Environmental Justice and Health Alliance, Center for Effective Government and Coming Clean uses data from U.S. EPA and U.S. Census to demonstrate an association between lower average housing values, incomes, education and greater Black, Latino and low-income populations living within chemical disaster “vulnerability zones” of 3,433 industrial facilities across the US. Read the full report and press release. Telephone press conference audio link.

“Industrial Sources of Dioxin Poisoning in Mossville, Louisiana: A report based on the government’s own data,” July 2007 revised: Prepared by Mossville Environmental Action Now Inc., Wilma Subra, The Subra Company, and Advocates for Environmental Human Rights. Read the full report.

“High Risk Facilities Endanger Communities, Schools and Hospitals in Texas,” data from Center for Effective Government. Read the full report

“Unequal Exposures: Toxic Chemicals in Communities of Color,” fact sheet by National Council of Churches

“Principles of Environmental Justice,” The Environmental Leadership Summit held on October 24–27, 1991, in Washington DC, drafted and adopted 17 principles of Environmental Justice. Since then, The Principles have served as a defining document for the growing grassroots movement for environmental justice. Read the Principles of Environmental Justice

Organizations Working on Environmental Justice and Chemical Disaster Risk

Advocates for Environmental Human Rights

Alaska Community Action on Toxics

Center for Effective Government

Center for the Urban Environment 

Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters 

Environmental Justice Workgroup of Coming Clean

Hosts a network engaging over 40 local organizations from 10 states representing communities disproportionately impacted by toxic chemical exposure. 


Greenpeace USA

Just Transition Alliance 

Los Jardinas Institute 

Mossville Environmental Action Now

New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance

People Concerned about Chemical Safety

Sierra Club, Lone Star Chapter

Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services

Texas Injured Workers

West County Toxics Coalition

Books and Video

Best books on environmental health, chemical exposure, environmental justice, chemical corporations and more (load into page in news room, revised version

Video: “President Obama: Prevent Chemical Disasters” – compelling must-see 1.3 minute video by Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters

News Stories About Chemical Disasters

June 7, 2014, “Report Calls for Protection of Chemical Workers,” Associated Press

January 28, 2014, “The Next Accident Awaits,” New York Times

October 20, 2013, “Much Work Remains in the West,” Chron oped, by Juan Parras, founder of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services in Houston and Katherine McFate,  president and CEO of the Center for Effective Government

February 26, 2010, “Toxic Towns: People in Mossville ‘are like an experiment,’” CNN