P R E S S    R E L E A S E


CONTACT: Debra Coyle, Executive Director - (609) 707-1320 cell
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  10AM, Monday, March 4, 2024

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new national rule, Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention, issued on March 1, 2024, will lead to New Jersey upgrading its own state chemical safety regulation to implement the new, stronger federal protections against chemical releases, fires, and explosions.   

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) implements and enforces the federal rules and must adopt the new EPA rules, known as the “Risk Management Program” (or RMP),  if stronger than existing state law.  The rules cover approximately 90 New Jersey facilities across the state that use extraordinarily hazardous substances above specified quantities.    

Under the strengthened standards, chemical facility owners in New Jersey and nationally must, for the first time:

  • Better evaluate risks of extreme weather and climate change on potential disasters.
  • Implement prevention safeguards, such as safer chemicals and processing methods, in chemical and oil refinery sectors that tend to have high incident rates.
  • Utilize independent third-party safety audits and root cause analyses after major accidental releases with impacts such as deaths, injuries, sheltering, or property damage.
  • Provide information, upon request, about chemical hazards to people living or working within six miles of the facility in at least the two most common languages of the community.
  • Advance worker and union training and participation in hazard prevention.
  • Empower a qualified operator in charge of a unit to shut down an operation if there was a threat of a catastrophic release.

Debra Coyle, Executive Director of the New Jersey Work Environment Council, said “The New Jersey Work Environment Council along with state and national labor, environmental, and environmental justice organizations, has advocated for decades that US EPA strengthen its safeguards to prevent chemical disasters and we are pleased that the Biden Administration took meaningful action.”

One significant change is the adoption of a Stop Work Authority.  Rick Engler, a former Member of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, said “EPA’s new rule includes key safety advances, among them is allowing workers and their representatives to stop work if there is a catastrophic danger.”

Another advance heralded by advocates is the right for those living or working near facilities to get vital and most up to date chemical hazard information directly from facilities. Amy Goldsmith, NJ State Director, Clean Water Action said, “The ‘right to know’ part of the new rule requiring facility management to provide hazard information to residents is essential to better community oversight and accountability of industry - often resulting in better facility safeguards and reducing chronic and catastrophic chemical exposures for all. ”


See: https://www.epa.gov/rmp/risk-management-program-safer-communities-chemical-accident-prevention-final-rule   The federal rules, known as the Risk Management Program or “RMP”, require employer compliance with the new provisions within three years.  The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection will adopt the federal rules and will address any inconsistencies to ensure that new state standards meet -- or exceed -- federal protections.  The NJ DEP implements and enforces these safeguards through its Toxic Catastrophe Prevention  Program or “TCPA”.

There are more than 150 major chemical incidents each year in the United States which lead to deaths, injuries, and community evacuations, and harm on-site workers, firefighters, and plant neighbors.  Moreover, fires and explosions destroy industrial sites, leading to job losses. They occur at chemical plants, oil refineries, water treatment facilities, food manufacturers, warehouses, and other sites.  


The New Jersey Work Environment Council (WEC) is a coalition of 70 labor, community, and environmental organizations formed in 1986 that works for safe, secure jobs and a healthy sustainable environment.  WEC has helped enact, implement, and defend key policies that protect New Jerseyans where they live and work from toxic chemicals. WEC policy campaigns won landmark reforms to the TCPA program, including requiring chemical facilities to assess their potential to adopt safer chemicals and processes.  WEC is part of the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters, which coordinated the national campaign for stronger chemical safety protections.


NJ Work Environment Council 
172 West State Street, 2nd Floor
Trenton, NJ 08608
website: www.njwec.org

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