Chemical Disasters and Security
Every day, over 124 million people live and work near high-risk industrial and commercial facilities that use or store highly hazardous chemicals. Releases and explosions happen constantly at these facilities, an average of one incident every other day somewhere in the US.
Environmental Justice communities are disproportionately at risk of chemical disasters. EJHA works with these communities and national allies to enact policies and practices that prevent chemical disasters, prepare communities to respond when incidents do happen, address the multiple health and environmental impacts caused by these facilities, and support transition to safer chemicals.
EJHA's work to prevent chemical disasters includes:
- Campaigns to address the harms caused by facilities that use, store, and emit hazardous chemicals, such as defending the improvements to EPA's chemical disaster prevention and response rules (the Risk Management Plan program) proposed for rollback by the Trump Administration and pushing for new rules to prevent and respond to chemical spills from Aboveground Storage Tanks;
- Support for local efforts to understand and address chemical facility hazards;
- Collaboration with labor, community, environmental, and national security allies through the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters, a joint effort of over 100 organizations;
- Research that documents hazards, disproportionate impacts, and solutions, such as our new Life at the Fenceline report and maps.
Disproportionate Hazards and Cumulative Impacts
EJHA's Who's in Danger? and Life at the Fenceline reports, along with much other Environmental Justice research, show that people of color, low-income people, and Indigenous people face much greater risks of catastrophic chemical releases than other people and communities. For example, the percentage of Blacks living nearest to 3,433 of the most dangerous chemical facilities across the country is 75% greater than for the US as a whole, and the percentage of Latinos is 60% greater. And in many EJ communities, two-thirds or more of schools and medical facilities are located near high-risk facilities.
EJ communities face not just greater risk of chemical disasters, but multiple health and environmental hazards from concentrations of hazardous and polluting facilities that create cumulative impacts. Our work to address cumulative impacts includes:
- Research (like our reports linked above) that documents hazards and impacts to help communities and decision makers understand the problems and identify solutions;
- Development and promotion of local and national policies that address cumulative impacts;
- Support for local campaigns to reduce and eliminate cumulative impacts.
Local Strategies and Campaigns
When the federal government fails to adopt and enforce policies to protect communities and workers, states, counties, and cities must step in to act. EJHA networks community organizations to share information, support each other, and act together to move toward solutions. Priorities include:
- Training and support for local organizations to increase their knowledge and their capacity to win positive changes;
- Research that documents hazards, impacts, and solutions (such as EJHA's Life at the Fenceline project);
- Development of model policies and strategies to achieve them.
EJHA networks community organizations and national allies to support national efforts to prevent chemical disasters. National priorities include:
- Defending the improvements to EPA's Risk Management Plan rule (which is supposed to prevent chemical disasters) that were adopted after many years of research and analysis, and are now proposed for elimination by the Trump Administration;
- Campaigning for long-overdue rules required by the Clean Water Act over 40 years ago to prevent and respond to chemical spills from Aboveground chemical Storage Tanks;
- Opposing cuts to federal programs, staff, and funding that address EJ issues and support EJ communities.