Environmentalists have sued the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), alleging the agency has failed to publish regulations for accidental chemical-release reporting as required by the Clean Air Act (CAA). In a complaint filed last month in D.C. federal court, Air Alliance Houston, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and other environmental groups say that the CAA requires the Chemical Safety Board to establish requirements for reporting accidents. While having acknowledged the mandate, the suit says, the CSB has not taken final action since the enactment of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.
PEER said in a statement that the lawsuit seeks to force the CSB to establish guidelines for the disclosure of air pollutants accidentally emitted by any industry within the agency’s jurisdiction. The CSB is charged with investigating chemical fires, explosions, leaks and other accidents. The group says the need for such a rule was highlighted this summer when Arkema Inc.’s liquid organic peroxide manufacturing plant caught fire in the wake of historic flooding from Hurricane Harvey. PEER lawyer Adam Carlesco said in a statement:
America’s sole industrial safety monitor is currently flying blind and placing the health of the public at risk. Congress has clearly required, and the CSB has acknowledged, that a rule must be promulgated to inform the public as to what chemicals industries have spewed into the atmosphere following an accident. Our lawsuit would finally implement this unambiguous yet long-neglected mandate.
According to the lawsuit, the CSB in 2009 published an advance notice of proposed rule-making for chemical release reporting but took no further action. In addition, the complaint says the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have separately noted the CSB’s lack of air pollution reporting guidelines for accidents.
At least two lawsuits have been filed against Arkema over the releases from its facility. One was filed by first responders that alleged no one told them about the dangers associated with the chemicals released during the fires and explosions. A separate class action alleged that the company “could have prevented or avoided the accident with better precautionary measures.”
The Plaintiffs are represented by Paula Dinerstein of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. The case is Air Alliance Houston et al. v. U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, (case number 1:17-cv-02608) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.