The National Environmental Policy Act Can Give Communities Impacted by Toxic Flooding a Voice

by Elena Franco | August 27, 2018

This post is part of a series about climate change and the increasing risk of floods releasing toxic chemicals from industrial facilities. It is based on a forthcoming article that will be published in the Sustainable Development Law & Policy Brief.

As climate change makes extreme weather events increasingly frequent, the risk of flooding on our rivers and shores increases. As I noted in a previous post in this series, this puts us at risk for toxic flooding – the combination of floodwaters and industrial toxic spills unleashed during flooding events. Although the storms themselves are not preventable, we can at least avoid placing toxic chemicals in the path of floodwaters. So what role can the American people play in developing stronger, more proactive policies designed to prevent, rather than merely respond to, toxic flooding? 

The good news is that existing federal and state environmental laws provide vehicles to ensure government uses the best information to make the best decisions while simultaneously giving a voice to those most impacted by those policies. At the federal level, we have the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and since 1973, Virginia has its own policies under the Virginia Environmental Impact Report procedure (VA EIR). Neither NEPA nor the VA EIR mandates any specific decision, but they both require government agencies to take a hard look at the potential consequences of their actions. 

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The James River: Floods, Pollution, and the Potential for Toxic Soup in Virginia

by Elena Franco | May 31, 2018
This post is part of a series about climate change and the increasing risk of floods releasing toxic chemicals from industrial facilities. As one of America’s first colonies, Virginia has a long history of industrialization and its consequent pollution along its waterways. It also has a long history of floods. This combination provides a potential for toxic flooding, putting Virginia's population and livelihoods at risk. The James River, named “America’s founding river” and spanning most of the state, is prone to floods, ...

Unlearned Lessons from the 'Toxic Soup': Floods, Industrialization, and Missed Opportunities

by Elena Franco | April 18, 2018
This post is part of a series about climate change and the increasing risk of floods releasing toxic chemicals from industrial facilities. As Hurricane Harvey lingered over Texas in 2017, it created a wall of water that swallowed much of Houston. Catastrophic flooding over a wide swath of southern Texas left towns, cities, and the countryside under feet of water. The floodwaters sloshed toxic chemicals from the area's 10 oil and gas refineries, 500 chemical plants, and 12 Superfund sites ...

Threat from Climate-Induced Spills Goes Beyond Superfund and Toxic Release Inventory Sites

by David Flores | March 19, 2018
This post is the first in a forthcoming series about climate change and the increasing risk of floods releasing toxic chemicals from industrial facilities in Virginia. At the tail end of winter, a succession of "bomb cyclones" and nor'easters has brought fierce winds and surging coastal flooding to the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. These storms remind us of the deepening vulnerability of our coastal and riverfront communities and infrastructure to intensifying extreme weather and flooding. This "freakish" winter weather comes just ...

Frank Lautenberg: New Jersey and the Senate Lose a Leader

by Rena Steinzor | June 18, 2013
Later in this space, we plan to discuss the many and varied failings of a proposal in the Senate to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act. Unfortunately, the proposal is the joint work product of conservative Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and liberal Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who died two weeks ago and therefore won’t have the chance to fix the legislation that is so unworthy of his name. But before we take on that misguided proposal, we wanted to pay ...

Scrambling the Truth on Toxics: IRIS Under Fire Again

by Wayland Radin | October 07, 2011
Continuing their crusade to undermine the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), the most prominent worldwide database of toxicological profiles of common chemicals, House Republicans held yet another hearing Thursday morning to review how the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) chemical risk assessment program interacts with and informs regulatory policy. This time, witnesses descended from politics into the weeds of science policy, doing their best to pretend that scientific risk assessments that say how “safe” dioxin is or isn’t have the same ...

Regulatory Highs and Lows of 2009: OSHA and Toxics

by Matt Shudtz | December 30, 2009
CPRBlog asked some of our regular bloggers to give us some suggestions for the high and low points of the regulatory year. We began by taking the Bush Administration’s “midnight regulations” off the table, so that we could focus in on the Obama Administration’s impact to date. CPR Policy Analyst Matt Shudtz offers up a number of items, below, focusing on the positive: At OSHA, several high points:  The leadership of David Michaels (as Assistant Secretary, the head of OSHA) and Jordan ...

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