The New York Times today called on EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to use her authority under the Clean Air Act to require dangerous chemical facilities to use safer processes, instead of storing large quantities of poison gases.
More than a decade after 9/11, thousands of facilities that produce, store or use highly toxic chemicals remain vulnerable to a terrorist attack or accident that could kill or injure hundreds of thousands of people living downwind of an explosion. A Congressional Research Service report identifies 483 facilities in 43 states where a chemical disaster would put 100,000 or more people at risk.
Indeed, an interactive map shows how millions of people all around country are at risk of a poison gas disaster because of these chemical facilities. Writing on Huffington Post last week, Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford wrote:
"Most major U.S. cities are threatened, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia and many more. In fact, Washington, D.C. is one of the only cities no longer at risk, as its dangerous facility quickly converted to a safer technology just a few weeks after 9/11. Every community should be free from the threat of a chemical disaster, not just our capital."
The New York Times editorial is one more voice among a chorus calling on President Obama and Lisa Jackson to protect Americans from these dangerous chemical plants. Last month, former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman urged her successor to take action "before a tragedy of historic proportions occurs."
The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council has also appealed to Jackson, because poorer and disadvantaged communities are often closest and most at risk from the chemical plants, oil refineries and water treatment plants that use and store these dangerous chemicals.
Greenpeace is part of a coalition of more than 100 labor, environmental, health and environmental justice organizations that are urging President Obama and Lisa Jackson to follow through on the president's 2008 pledge to "Secure our chemical plants by setting a clear set of federal regulations that all plants must follow, including improving barriers, containment, mitigation and safety training, and wherever possible, using safer technology, such as less toxic chemicals."
Follow Kevin Grandia on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kgrandia