Trump Executive Order Froze Key EPA Rules That Protect NJ Public Health and Safety
Toxic vapor intrusion, Catastrophic chemical release, and public involvement
While you were enthralled with all those Trump tweets, a little known Trump Executive Order froze the finalization of 30 EPA regulations, including those that impact NJ and protect against serious risks to public health and the environment.
The Trump Order is a virtual replay of Gov. Christie’s Executive Order #1 – which, just like Trump, was issued on the first day in office and froze “job killing red tape” regulations. Trump followed that first day Order up with another rollback initiative, again that is virtually identical to Gov. Christie’s Executive Order #2 and Executive Order #3. Even the slogans and the spin are the same.
Here is the Federal Register Notice that identifies the 30 rules impacted by the Trump Order:
In accordance with the Presidential directive as expressed in the memorandum of January 20, 2017, from the Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff, entitled “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review,” this action temporarily delays until March 21, 2017, the effective date of the regulations listed in the table below. EPA identified 30 regulations that meet those criteria,
There are at least 3 EPA rules frozen with significant NJ implications.
I) Vapor intrusion as a risk factor in Superfund listing
NJ has one of the largest individual vapor intrusion sites in the country, where the Dupont plant in Pompton Lakes poisoned groundwater that caused toxic chemical vapors to migrate into over 450 homes.
In addition, on a statewide level, NJ has not only the most Superfund sites, but the most dense population in the country and a legacy of over 6,000 contaminated groundwater sites where toxic vapors may be migrating into nearby occupied buildings and poisoning people.
That Dupont case became the poster child for why US EPA needed to revise the Superfund program to consider those risks when deciding whether to list a site on the Superfund National Priorities List. See:
See this for EPA Federal Register Notice:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is adding a subsurface intrusion (SsI) component to the Hazard Ranking System (HRS), which is the principal mechanism that EPA uses to evaluate sites for placement on the National Priorities List (NPL). The NPL is a list of national priorities among the known or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants throughout the United States. Sites on the NPL are priorities for further investigation to determine if further response actions are warranted. The subsurface intrusion component (this addition) expands the number of available options for EPA and state and tribal organizations performing work on behalf of EPA to evaluate actual and potential threats to public health from releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants. This addition enables EPA to directly consider human exposure to hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants that enter regularly occupied structures through subsurface intrusion in assessing a site’s relative risk, and thus, enable sites with subsurface intrusion contamination to be evaluated for placement on the NPL.
II) Catastrophic Risks from accidents at deadly chemical plants
NJ has many “Bhopal” like facilities that store extremely hazardous chemicals where an accident or terror attack could kill thousands of people.
Former deceased NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg was a national leader in seeking protections from these risks – leadership Senator Corey Booker has not emulated.
According to EPA’s Federal Register notice:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in response to Executive Order 13650, is amending its Risk Management Program regulations. The revisions contain several changes to the accident prevention program requirements including an additional analysis of safer technology and alternatives as part of the process hazard analysis for some Program 3 processes, third-party audits and incident investigation root cause analysis for Program 2 and Program 3 processes; enhancements to the emergency preparedness requirements; increased public availability of chemical hazard information; and several other changes to certain regulatory definitions and data elements submitted in risk management plans. These amendments seek to improve chemical process safety, assist local emergency authorities in planning for and responding to accidents, and improve public awareness of chemical hazards at regulated sources.
Not. surprisingly, Executive Order 13650 (“Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security“) was issued by President Obama and sought to strengthen protections. Trump/Pruitt see those protections as economic burdens on their corporate contributors.
(Update: Trump’s budget proposes to eliminate the Chemical Safety Board)
III) Public involvement in permitting and enforcement actions
The people of NJ understand how important it is to participate in and pressure regulators to do the right thing. The rules of the game govern how that happens.
The community is often the last o know about toxic hazards in their community, as corporations work with regulators behind the scenes to conceal problems. Transparency and public involvement can prevent these kind of disasters.
EPA had proposed new rules to enhance public involvement:
Part 22 of Title 40 of the CFR establishes procedures governing administrative adjudicatory proceedings to assess administrative civil penalties, to issue various compliance orders, and to terminate or suspend certain permits. 40 CFR 22.1. These proceedings are conducted under a variety of environmental statutes, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Solid Waste Disposal Act, and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, among others. Such cases are generally heard by the Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) within the EPA’s Office of Administrative Law Judges or Regional Judicial Officers. The part 22 regulations are titled the “Consolidated Rules of Practice Governing the Administrative Assessment of Civil Penalties, Issuance of Compliance or Corrective Action Orders, and the Revocation/Termination or Suspension of Permits” (“Rules of Practice”).
I don’t recall reading any NJ press coverage of any of this.
The media is repeating the negligent non-coverage of Gov. Christie’s regulatory policy.
When there’s a refinery blowout or a toxic train derails or a chemical plant blows up – or there’s an oil spill – I’m sure we’ll get the 24×7 sensational coverage, but nothing about the underlying causes.
Or maybe we can get some coverage when the freeze expires in the very near future.
Let’s see how many rules Trump kills – he’s already killed several – and whether NJ’s Congressional delegation speaks out publicly and works to block them (hint Senator Booker!)