THE US’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not have to comply with the Chemical Disaster Rule until at least October, after an attempt to enforce the rule immediately was blocked.
The Chemical Disaster Rule aims to improve safety at chemical facilities and ensure that the public and first responders are informed of hazardous materials or health risks. The EPA has been delaying the Obama-era law since January 2017, however a federal court ruling on 17 August deemed the delay unlawful. On 24 August, environmental groups and Democrat state attorneys general called on the court to skip the traditional 52-day waiting period to enforce the ruling and to issue an expedited mandate to bring the law into effect straight away.
“Petitioners and the public have a strong interest in the court’s mandate issuing promptly, due to the serious and irreparable harm and imminent threats to public health and safety that the EPA’s Delay Rule is causing,” the petitioners said in their motion for an expedited mandate. They emphasised that oil refineries and chemical facilities along the Gulf Coast should be immediately subjected to the Chemical Disaster Rule now that hurricane season has arrived.
On 31 August the DC Circuit Court granted the motion and issued the mandate, requiring the EPA to put the rule into effect immediately. However, business groups and Republican state attorneys general argued that a federal rule states that parties should have ten days to oppose motions, and therefore they were given insufficient time to oppose the motion. “The court never gave industry intervenors notice of its decision to grant petitioners’ motion,” they wrote in their emergency filings. “The court should accordingly rescind the order and recall its mandate to give industry intervenors the opportunity to exercise their right to respond.”
On 4 September, the court backtracked on its 31 August decision and the mandate was recalled. The court said that the decision had been made “inadvertently” before the opponents had a chance to respond. The original ruling from 17 August is still in place, but the mandate will now not be issued until 8 October.
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