Environment
5:21 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Obama Issues Executive Order Addressing Chemical Plant Safety

In the wake of a deadly explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant, President Obama has issued an executive order to improve the safety and security of chemical manufacturing facilities. The measure will likely have implications for Louisville's Rubbertown.

Obama’s executive order tasks government officials with evaluating the feasibility of sharing information about dangerous chemicals among state, tribal and local emergency response commissions. It establishes a working group, and sets that within 45 days, the group will launch a pilot program to test best practices for sharing crucial information, improving collaboration and streamlining chemical plant inspections. Within nine months, the president wants a “unified federal approach to identify and respond to risks” in chemical plants.

Elizabeth Crowe of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation says the order is a long time coming, especially because it includes a discussion about transitioning from toxic to safer chemicals.

“How can we not just manage a chemical accident when it occurs, but how can we really kind of look at opportunities and then take the opportunities to avoid the instance altogether,” she said. “Ultimately that could mean looking at safer technology approaches, safer chemical substitutions. Those sorts of solutions that can really make the difference for communities in the long haul and also keep our businesses as innovators.”

The working group includes representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Transportation.