Whitman Presses Obama on Chemical Safety

An aerial picture, taken from a helicopter following US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, shows the devastation at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, on April 25, 2013.
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Alex Brown
Oct. 11, 2013, 8:53 a.m.

Shut­down or not, the gov­ern­ment needs to step up its ac­tions on chem­ic­al-plant safety, said former En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­trat­or Christine Todd Whit­man on a Fri­day press call.

“We need to have some ac­tion on a fed­er­al level,” Whit­man said, say­ing chem­ic­al safety has been an “ob­vi­ous is­sue” since 9/11, fur­ther high­lighted by the April fer­til­izer-plant ex­plo­sion in West, Texas. “It’s time to take ac­tion,” she said. “This is clearly something that most people sup­port.”

Pres­id­ent Obama is­sued a dir­ect­ive in Au­gust prompt­ing agen­cies to work on im­prov­ing chem­ic­al-plant safety, but Whit­man said the shut­down has already pushed back some meet­ings re­lated to the or­der and could delay oth­er dead­lines.

Cen­ter for Ef­fect­ive Gov­ern­ment Pres­id­ent Kath­er­ine Mc­Fate said the shut­down may set back an Oct. 31 dead­line for agen­cies to re­com­mend stand­ards but was hope­ful the May 2014 tar­get date for reg­u­la­tion changes would stand.

Whit­man spoke to re­port­ers on a press call or­gan­ized by the Co­ali­tion to Pre­vent Chem­ic­al Dis­asters. The or­gan­iz­a­tion sim­ul­tan­eously re­leased a poll it says shows over­whelm­ing pub­lic sup­port for stronger chem­ic­al-plant stand­ards.

“Many com­pan­ies have ac­ted re­spons­ibly, but far too many oth­ers have not,” Whit­man said. “Re­quir­ing the use of safer chem­ic­als “¦ we’ve seen com­pan­ies over and over again show that they can do this.”

On Thursday, the Oc­cu­pa­tion­al Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­posed $118,300 in fines for the West, Texas fa­cil­ity.


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