EPA administrator and basic science denier Scott Pruitt has kicked off the formal process to repeal or amend new safety rules established by the Obama administration following the catastrophic West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion that leveled a significant portion of the town including several neighborhood schools.
Pruitt appears to be taking this action because it was requested by the chemical industry.
The decision comes just two weeks after a coalition of industry groups affected by the rule wrote to Pruitt asking for such action. Congressional Republicans have also objected, and Congress is considering legislation by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) to overturn the rule.
“As an agency, we need to be responsive to concerns raised by stakeholders regarding regulations so facility owners and operators know what is expected of them,” Pruitt said in a late Monday statement announcing the reconsideration.
Pruitt has a long history of bowing to industry whims, so this wouldn't come as a surprise but, for their part, his administration says they've delayed the rule over security concerns.
From the Associated Press:
The rule requires companies to make public the types and quantities of chemicals stored on site. The chemical industry and other business groups say that could make it easier for terrorists and other criminals to target high-value refineries, chemical plants and other facilities.
The Obama administration finalized the rule in January, saying it would help prevent accidents and improve emergency preparedness by allowing first responders better data on chemical storage.
Several first responders, who were responding to a fire at the West, Texas fertilizer plant, were killed by the following explosion.
The good news, if there is any, is that it will take at least a year for Pruitt to repeal the rules if that is his goal, leaving plenty of time for legislative and legal opposition to mobilize. It took the Obama administration over a year to draft and finalize the rule.
The chemical industry says it will cost them over $140 million per year to comply with the rules. That feels like a dubious claim but, in any event, that must be cheaper than the cost of wiping entire towns off the map.
Settlements reached in multiple lawsuits against multiple companies responsible for the West explosion have been kept sealed so we don't know exactly how much money has been paid out to the victims. 15 were killed and over 150 were injured by the explosion. The last time the fertilizer plant was inspected prior to the 2013 explosion was 1985.