US Grouping Pushes for Safer Chemical Use
A survey conducted by the US Center for Effective Government in cooperation with the Coming Clean Collaborative in the wake of the deadly explosion of the West fertilizer storage facility in Texas last year found that 55% of American voters supported a federal requirement for companies to shift to safer chemical alternatives if they are available and affordable.
That support rose to 66%, the survey showed, when those voters were informed that more than 100 million Americans live in high-risk zones near chemical facilities and that hundreds of plants already have switched to safer chemicals and practices.
Following an analysis of the accident that killed 15 people and destroyed three schools and a nursing home, federal officials realized serious gaps exist in federal oversight authority US President Barack Obama tasked an interagency working group with developing new guidelines for improving chemical facility safety and ensuring that some federal agency has responsibility for implementing and enforcing new safety guidelines.
Some private companies already have reduced the hazards to surrounding communities by reducing the amount of high-risk chemicals that are stored on-site at any one time; others have changed production processes, the Center says expressed "dismay" that the post-accident assessment did not specifically require or recommend any of these actions.
The Center for Effective Government has called on the president to empower the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Homeland Security "to issue effective, enforceable standards requiring companies to assess their operations and, where feasible, use inherently safer chemicals and technologies, adding that failure to adopt safer substances or manufacturing processes should be met with stiff penalties."