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Environmental and Labor Groups Call for Inherently Safer Technologies

Groups ranging from Greenpeace, the BlueGreen Alliance, and the Sierra Club to the United Steel Workers and Communication Workers of America have petitioned EPA to act on its authority, under Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act, to require chemical facilities (including drinking water and wastewater utilities) to install inherently safer technologies (IST) to reduce or eliminate chemical hazards to human health and the environment.

The petition, signed by more than 50 state-based and national groups, calls the DHS Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program inadequate, noting that “DHS has not required safer chemical processes that would prevent chemical releases that can occur not only as a result of security breaches, but also because of process accidents or natural disasters.” The petition proposed mandatory application of inherently safer technology requirements as an appropriate solution.

The 15 page petition goes on to say that, “The success of the inherently safer technology approach depends on the availability and feasibility of alternatives to the use and storage of dangerous quantities of extremely hazardous substances…a survey in March 2010 found [that rather than converting from] reliance on chlorine gas and other extremely hazardous substances…nearly 2,600 water and wastewater facilities continued to rely on chemicals that would endanger the public in the event of an accidental release.”

The petition continues by saying, “The use of EPA’s regulatory authority under section 112(r)(7)(A) would be particularly appropriate in addressing the subject of inherently safer technology, because, by allowing the agency to ‘make distinctions between various types, classes, and kinds of facilities, devices, and systems,’ that provision provides the agency with the needed flexibility to take into account the many considerations that are necessary to determine when the use of safer technology 9and when it should be mandated).”

In conclusion, the petition calls on EPA to commence rulemaking under Clean Air Act Section 112(r), revise the guidance for enforcement of the general duty clause under that Section, and comply with the provisions of the Administrative Procedures to “…proceed expeditiously to consider this petition within a reasonable time…” given the gravity of the issue and the concern for public safety.

You may read and/or download a copy of the petition HERE.