What would you do if 60,000 people asked you to do something?
I bet you would sit up and take notice.
Yesterday, in a meeting with White House staff, Greenpeace joined representatives from a coalition of over 100 organizations to deliver 60,833 signatures to the White House calling on President Obama to use his authority to prevent chemical disasters. Labor union representatives talked about the workers who would be the first to die in a poison gas release at a chemical facility. Environmental Justice leaders described the communities surrounding dangerous facilities who are next in line to suffer the results of a disaster, and who are most often communities of color and low-income communities. Health experts explained that hospitals would be overrun and incapable of responding the casualties of a poison gas catastrophe.
Over 100 million people in this country live with the threat of a chemical disaster, but President Obama has the power to do something about it. The Clean Air Act contains a provision that has never been fully implemented that the EPA could use to require dangerous chemical plants to switch to feasible safer alternatives. On Wednesday our coalition filed a petition with the EPA from over 50 organizations outlining the EPAs legal authority to create new guidance and regulations.
Recently the industry has been using their favorite members of Congress to push back against this proposal with ridiculous arguments. These same members of Congress have refused to pass anything that will protect the millions who remain at risk and now they want to keep the Obama Administration from doing anything that would start to make communities safer. The Obama Administration has consistently testified in favor of strong policies on chemical disaster prevention. Now its time for them to stand up to Big Chems lobbyists and implement the authority they have to prevent chemical disasters as Congress intended in 1990. As Obama said in 2006, We cannot allow chemical industry lobbyists to dictate the terms of this debate. We cannot allow our security to be hijacked by corporate interests." Every day that goes by without these common sense safeguards is one day too many for those who live in harms way.