In response to the disaster in West, Texas, a listening session on chemical safety was held in Texas City with several federal agencies in attendance. The goal of the listening session was to hear the public and stakeholders’ ideas on how the government should proceed in ensuring the safety of facilities that house dangerous chemicals. Several groups from Texas were in attendance, including Public Citizen, Air Alliance Houston, TEJAS, labor organizations, local emergency planning committee (LEPC) members, and others. Concerns were raised about the lack of funding to LEPCs and how the federal government could effectively implement rules on chemical safety. One speaker lost her father in a workplace accident and called for rules ensuring worker safety. Another speaker was an LEPC member who raised concerns about chemical plants in her area and their susceptibility to terror attacks. Concerns were raised about the post-9/11 restriction on online access to information on chemical hazards.
Only one industry representative spoke in opposition, in contrast to over a dozen speakers who spoke in favor of ensuring the security of the homeland, communities, and workers.
This was the first of several listening sessions that will be held across the country. The last listening session will be held in Houston, Texas, during the week of January 20, 2014 – location and actual date and time to be determined.
Following on the heals of the chemical safety “listening session”, the “Invisible Houston Revisited” conference was held on Thursday at Texas Southern University addressing issues facing the African-American community and communities of color in Houston. A panel of three environmental experts addressed environmental justice concerns, including Adrian Shelley of Air Alliance Houston. Results of the Healthy Port Communities Coalition (HPCC) survey of residents in the Houston Ship Channel were presented, piquing the interest of several conference attendees who asked about HPCC’s recommendations for the port and the implications of the port expansion on communities of color. Other participants on the panel include Dr. Elena Craft of the Environmental Defense Fund and Dr. Robert D. Bullard, long considered the father of environmental justice.