Former EPA Chief Presses Obama on Chemical Safety

Former EPA Chief Christine Todd Whitman Former EPA Chief Christine Todd Whitman Mel Evans/AP File Photo

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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