More than three years after an official prompt from the President, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a long-awaited rule aimed at preventing disasters like the 2010 refinery explosion that killed seven workers in Anacortes, Washington.
That tragedy was the subject of a recent joint investigation into worker safety by the Center for Public Integrity and Al Jazeera English, which highlighted a culture of repeated safety lapses at the Tesoro refinery.
The new rule, which was signed by outgoing EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Wednesday, represents a significant set of changes to the agency’s Risk Management Program.
The program oversees some of the nation’s top stockpilers of hazardous chemicals, including a broad array of facilities ranging from paper mills to petrochemical plants. But the timing of the rule is potentially precarious—as it could be subject to undoing by the incoming Trump administration, which has expressed misgivings about the scope of federal regulations.
Even if the rule survives, some critics argue it doesn't go far enough in pushing companies to adopt safer technologies and processes.
“This rule is a tragic flip flop by President Obama, who previously championed protecting communities by requiring safer chemical processes,” said Rick Hind of Greenpeace. “We believe history will not judge this flip flop kindly because of the millions of workers and community residents who will not be protected even if it is implemented.”