MANHATTAN (CN) — Nearly a dozen states sued the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator Scott Pruitt on Monday for delaying safety regulations on chemical accidents, sparked by a deadly explosion at a Texas fertilizer storage plant in 2013.
In December, then-President Barack Obama put the measures in place in response to the West Fertilizer Co. plant’s accident that killed 15 people and injured more than 250 others.
The amended rules updated the risk-management plan detailed in amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990, to put additional safeguards in place such as requiring root-cause analyses and third-party audits following accidents.
The regulations also would have forced companies to coordinate with first responders, conduct field exercises and be more transparent, providing public access to their chemical hazards and public meetings within 90 days of an incident.
With the rules set to go into effect on March 14 this year, Pruitt delayed the measures by an additional 20 months — pushing back the implementation date until at least Feb. 20, 2019.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman led 10 other states in declaring this action illegal Monday.
“Protecting our workers, first-responders, and communities from chemical accidents should be something on which we all agree,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Yet the Trump EPA continues to put special interests before the health and safety of the people they serve.”
Before heading the EPA, Pruitt had been one of the agency’s staunchest antagonists, repeatedly suing regulators to adopt more industry-friendly positions. Emails that came to light after Pruitt’s appointment from the time of his tenure as Oklahoma attorney general detailed his close connections with fossil fuel companies and other special interest groups.
Alluding to these ties, Schneiderman noted that the American Chemistry Council, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute and other oil, gas and chemical industry associations pushed the Trump administration to reconsider the chemical-accident safety rule shortly after it was finalized.
“It’s simply outrageous to block these common sense protections – and attorneys general will keep fighting back when our communities are put at risk,” Schneiderman added.
Over the past 10 years, the EPA has reported more than 1,500 accidents at chemical storage plants nationally, including 30 in New York.
Attorneys general from Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington also signed the lawsuit, filed in the D.C. Circuit.
Their petition to review the agency’s decision seeks a ruling that Pruitt’s delay violates the Clean Air Act.
The EPA declined comment, citing pending litigation.