States object to plan that would strengthen federal regulation of chemicals but limit state power. The proposed Chemical Safety Improvement Act has been hailed as a fix for the nation’s system of regulating toxic chemicals, which has long been considered broken. The chemical industry has backed the proposal but, in exchange for that support, has insisted on limiting the power of states to add their own rules. At least nine state attorneys general have objected to the proposal. A California official said the federal measure would have “potentially crippling effects” on the state’s ability to enforce some of its landmark consumer protection laws and “strip away in a significant way the state’s ability to regulate toxics.” Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg

U.S. safety officials issue alert over solvent linked to nervous system damage. Despite long-standing health concerns, use of 1-bromopropane, — also called 1-BP or nBP — has grown 15-fold in the past six years, mostly in auto body shops, dry cleaners and furniture manufacturing. The solvent came on the market as a replacement for another toxic chemical that has been phased out, but has been used at 10 to 200 times the levels chemical companies say is safe. For example, at least 140 furniture workers were exposed to hazardous levels of the solvent. Many were sickened and left unable to walk, one safety official says. The new federal hazard alert urges employers to stop or minimize use of the chemical. OSHA, The New York Times

Federal probes of industrial accidents take too long, watchdog says. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board examines incidents such as fires and explosions at refineries and factories and then issues recommendations to prevent similar problems in the future. But a new report by the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general says the agency contributes to problems by taking too long to investigate. Safety at industrial sites has become a priority in Washington following several deadly incidents, including the April explosion at a Texas fertilizer factory that killed 15 people. Separately, President Obama today signed an executive order aimed at improving safety and security at chemical plants. Bloomberg, The Dallas Morning News

California official says enforcing environmental laws at pot operations is too dangerous. Pot growers in rural California have illegally bulldozed hillsides in sensitive watersheds, allowing pesticides to pollute waterways, local officials say. But when they turned to the state for help in enforcing environmental laws, they were rebuffed. “We simply cannot, in good conscience, put staff in harm’s way,” explained Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board Executive Director Paula Creedon. Some of the pot operations are run by Mexican cartels and guarded by heavily armed men. The result, one local lawmaker said, is that area farms and factories have to comply with environmental laws while pot operations get a free pass. The Associated Press

Chevron, EMD Millipore agree to settle environmental charges. In the Chevron case, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused the oil giant of excessive nitrogen oxide emissions at a Salt Lake City refinery. Without admitting guilt or liability, Chevron agreed to settle the case by installing pollution controls, paying fines of $284,000 and buying four school buses powered by compressed natural gas at a cost of $25,000 each. Separately,  EMD Millipore Co. of Billerica, Mass., agreed to pay $2.68 million in penalties to settle charges of illegally producing, importing and selling pesticide devices used in laboratories. The fine is the second-largest civil penalty ever under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. EPA (Chevron), EPA (Millipore), The Salt Lake Tribune

Compiled by Bridget Huber




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