Eleven states including Washington have sued the Trump administration to improve safety at the nation’s refineries and chemical plants.
The lawsuit, led by New York's Attorney General, aims to force the Environmental Protection Agency to revive safety rules enacted in the final days of the Obama administration.
Within days of taking office, the Trump administration put the rules on hold as part of its push to de-regulate the U.S. economy.
The chemical safety rules — amendments to EPA’s Accidental Release Prevention Requirements under the Clean Air Act — are in limbo until 2019. They were intended to reduce the risk of explosions that have killed workers and endangered communities in Anacortes and elsewhere in recent years.
“Washingtonians have first-hand experience with the types of disasters this rule was designed to help prevent,” a press release from Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said.
A fireball half the size of a football field erupted from the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes in 2010, killing seven workers. An appeals judge in June overturned the company’s record $2.4 million safety fine from state safety regulators.
United Steelworkers – the union representing workers at that refinery – and environmental groups sued the EPA in June to revive the safety rules.
The groups said the two-year delay could lead to hundreds of deaths near or inside chemical plants across the country.
Makers of hazardous products like gasoline and fertilizer said the new EPA rules are costly and unnecessary. According to those companies, the safety rules' requirements to disclose more information to help nearby communities' disaster planning would worsen the risk of sabotage or terrorism at the plants.
The Trump administration said on Thursday it has removed or frozen 860 "ineffective, duplicative and obsolete" regulations on various industries in the past six months, with the aim of ridding the economy of unnecessary burdens.