After a chemical plant explosion in West, Texas, killed 15 people in April, President Obama ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to create a plan to reduce the risks of more deadly chemical disasters. But with the president's October 31st deadline for action coming up fast, it's not clear that the EPA will take decisive steps.
In 2003, the government's National Infrastructure Protection Center warned that chemical plants in the United States could be targets of terrorism. Media investigations have highlighted lax or nonexistent security at these facilities, with gates unlocked and chemical tanks unguarded. According to the EPA, more than 470 chemical facilities in the U.S. each put 100,000 or more people at risk of a poison gas disaster. The Homeland Security Council projects that a major attack would set off a deadly gas cloud that would kill 17,500 people, seriously injure 10,000 more people, and send 100,000 more people to the hospital.
In 2006, Senator Barack Obama called these hazards "stationary weapons of mass destruction spread all across the country." Senator Obama called for rules to require chemical companies to move to safer technologies where it's feasible to do so. So have many other leaders in Congress, as well as President Bush's EPA head Christine Todd Whitman and President Obama's former EPA head Lisa Jackson.
Many companies, such as Clorox, have voluntarily switched to safer chemicals, demonstrating that it can be done. But hard-line chemical companies, led by the Koch brothers, have lobbied relentlessly in Washington to prevent reforms.
I work with the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters, a united group of environment, environmental justice, and labor organizations working for the changes we need. We just released a video highlighting the need for prompt action. Please watch and share with others. The video tells how to contact the White House and demand action.
The more people see this video, the more they will be motivated to tell the EPA and President Obama to act. It shouldn't be a hard decision. A recent national poll showed that only 7 percent of likely voters oppose such a policy. And it's the right thing to do for our national security, for the safety of our people.