Citizen complaint filed with USEPA: Ohio in violation of federal law

March 5, Columbus, Ohio A petition to USEPA was filed by Teresa Mills of Grove City, Ohio, on behalf of herself and all residents across the State of Ohio. The petition requests that the United States Environmental Protection Agency take action to avoid imminent public harm and to protect the public right-to-know arising from actions taken by the State of Ohio that are clearly unconstitutional under the Federal Supremacy Clause for violating the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (“EPCRA”), Pub. L. No. 99-499, Title III, 100 Stat. 1728 (1986).

According to the petition, Ohio has been in violation of EPCRA since 2001 without any response to date from the federal government. That violation was first created by the passage of House Bill 94, followed by the adoption of Ohio Revised Code (ORC) §3750.081 in September, 2001, which essentially exempts the oil and gas industry operating in this state from EPCRA requirements that facilities annually file emergency planning inventory forms with state and local emergency planning authorities. The violation was further compounded by passage of SB 315 in 2012, followed by the adoption of ORC Section §1509.10 (H) and (I), which divert trade secret determination authority from U.S. EPA and unduly restrict citizens’ ability to challenge trade secret claims.

The law establishes requirements for federal, state and local governments, Indian tribes, and industry for emergency planning and “Community Right-to-Know” reporting relating to hazardous and toxic chemicals and chemical spills.  The Community Right-to-Know provisions help increase the public’s knowledge and access to information on chemicals at individual facilities, their uses, and releases into the environment.[1]

Congress passed EPCRA in response to the Bhopal, India disaster, in which an industrial release exposed more than 500,000 people to toxic gas and killed thousands.

“EPCRA’s provisions do not grant authority to states to alter any EPCRA requirements,” said Mills, of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice and Buckeye Forest Council. “Citizens have asked for the right to know and have been ignored,” she stated.

Cheryl Johncox, Executive Director of Buckeye Forest Council, said, “The Council is in full support of the petition.  This is not a partisan issue; it is a citizen safety issue.  Laws were passed to strip notification requirements under both Democratic and Republican administrations.  First Responders need to know what they are dealing with in case of an emergency.”

Heather Cantino, member of Athens County Fracking Action Network, explained, “The Ohio legislature has given the oil and gas industry preemptions from laws that all other industries have to follow. By exempting this industry from the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, Ohio legislators have enabled information about hazardous chemicals to be withheld not only from emergency planners, firefighters and hazmat teams, but also from doctors, nurses and EMTs.” Cantino concluded, “Thanks to Teresa Mills, Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, and Buckeye Forest Council for taking action against our rogue state government. It must be held accountable for serving corporate oil and gas interests at the expense of Ohioans’ health and welfare. Our state government is not doing its duty to serve the public and safeguard the public’s welfare. We look to the federal government to act.”

Coverage on NBC4, Columbus

[1] US EPA – Emergency Planning and Community Right- to- Know Act Overview.-