Rule designed to prevent disasters like 2010 Tesoro refinery explosion
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today asked a federal court to review the Trump Administration’s nearly two-year delay of the Chemical Disaster Rule, which updates important safety requirements for large industrial facilities that handle hazardous chemicals.
The petition was filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Ferguson and 10 other attorneys general contend that the administration’s delay violates the Clean Air Act.
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.
After taking office, the Trump Administration issued a directive to “temporarily postpone” regulations issued by the previous administration that had not yet taken effect. These regulations had been through an intensive public review and vetting process. Ferguson is involved in several challenges to those delays.
“Washingtonians have first-hand experience with the types of disasters this rule was designed to help prevent,” Ferguson said. “I won’t allow the Trump administration to violate the law by blocking these important environmental and worker safety standards.”
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. 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 another 90 days in March. In June, the EPA again stalled its implementation, this time for an additional 20 months while the agency reconsiders the rule.
The administration’s action to delay the rule until 2019 is a violation of the Clean Air Act, Ferguson argues.
Counsel for Environmental Protection chief Bill Sherman is leading the case for Washington. In 2016, Ferguson created the Counsel for Environmental Protection to protect our environment and the safety and health of all Washingtonians.
The Attorney General’s Office has prevailed in three cases against the Trump Administration. Every court to have issued a decision has ruled in favor the Washington Attorney General’s Office in cases it brought against the Trump Administration. These cases include:
- In January, a federal judge granted the Attorney General’s request to block implementation of President Donald Trump’s first travel ban executive order. A three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously agreed with that decision. The Trump Administration decided not to appeal and agreed to pay the state of Washington’s legal costs.
- After the Attorney General’s Office and a multistate coalition asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to review the administration’s delay in implementing new energy efficiency rules for ceiling fans, the U.S. Department of Energy conceded and announced that the rules would go into effect.
- On July 3, after the Attorney General’s Office intervened in a lawsuit against the EPA challenging delays in implementing a rule regulating emissions from new oil and gas facilities, a federal panel ruled against the EPA.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Interim Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; firstname.lastname@example.org