State prosecutors sue EPA over chemical safety rule delay

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A group of 11 Democratic state prosecutors sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday to force it to implement rules designed to prevent chemical spills and other industrial accidents at facilities such as refineries and fertilizer plants, according to a federal court filing.

The attorneys general of Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington asked the U.S. Appeals Court, District of Columbia Circuit to vacate a two-year delay on the rules’ effective date the EPA imposed in June.

The set of regulations, called the Chemical Accident Safety Rule, would require industrial facilities to take new steps to prevent accidents and also to conduct more robust examinations of the causes of accidents that do occur. The rules call for more coordination with local authorities and first responders, as well as more public outreach following an accident and more drills to prepare for one.

A spokesman for the EPA acknowledged Reuters’ request for comment but had no immediate response.

In a March 13 letter, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt vowed to delay the effective date of the rules for two years. On June 14, the EPA set a new effective date of February 19, 2019.

“It’s simply outrageous to block these common sense protections,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a press release emailed to Reuters on Monday.

Even while delaying implementation, the EPA released a fact sheet in June touting the importance of the new rules. According to the fact sheet, 58 people have died in the last 10 years as a result of 1,517 industrial accidents that caused $2 billion worth of property damage.

“EPA’s changes,” the fact sheet read, “will help protect local first responders, community members and employees from death or injury due to chemical facility accidents.”

Reporting By Emily Flitter; editingby Diane Craft