Poll Shows Bi-Partisan Support for New Rules to Prevent Chemical Disasters

Media Contacts
Jason Pfeifle


Oakland— The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering new chemical plant safety rules, and a new poll of likely 2016 voters shows strong support among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents for rules that would reduce or eliminate the hazards posed by thousands of chemical plants across the nation.[1]

Strong majorities across gender, age, race, partisanship, and region support for new requirements to use safer chemicals and processes. This is a policy that President Obama has also long championed.

Overall, 79 percent of likely voters support these new requirements, and only 17 percent oppose them:[2]

o   Democrats: 88 percent support, 76 percent strongly

o   Independents: 77 percent support, 60 percent strongly

o   Republicans: 70 percent support, 49 percent strongly

Since the deadly 2013 West, Texas fertilizer plant disaster, there have been more than 420 chemical plant incidents across the U.S., killing 82 people and injuring over 1,600.[3]

In California alone, there are 1,492 major chemical facilities, using over 300 million pounds of toxic chemicals and 1.3 million pounds of flammable chemicals. There have been 108 chemical incidents in California in the past five years.

According to reports from chemical facilities to the EPA, over 100 million Americans live in hazard zones near chemical plants.[4] Further, one in three U.S. schoolchildren goes to school inside a hazard zone.[5]

Leaders of the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters sent a letter to President Obama on October 8th, citing the new polling results, and warned the President that the EPA does not have much time left to implement his August 2013 Executive Order (#13650)[6] directing EPA and other agencies to modernize their chemical plant safety regulations.   

In their letter the groups said: “we informed the EPA in February that their schedule could jeopardize a final rule, putting it at risk of reversal by a new Congress or President in 2017. EPA’s inaction also jeopardizes all your years of leadership on this important issue… We fear that the EPA may fall far short of the prevention policies you advocated for in the Senate, and the principles your administration advanced on Capitol Hill. Primary among those principles were requirements to use safer chemical processes or inherently safer technologies (IST) where feasible.”

“It is essential that the EPA make cost-effective IST requirements an integral part of any revision of its Risk Management Program (RMP) to eliminate the many catastrophic hazards faced by workers and communities across the U.S.  Unfortunately, EPA’s June alert to industry on IST continued its long standing reliance on costly voluntary measures… Instead commonsense IST requirements have the support of a majority of Americans.

The letter also noted that cost-effective safer alternatives to dangerous chemicals are widely available (eg., Washington, D.C.’s waste water treatment plant and all U.S. Clorox facilities have converted) but new requirements are necessary to ensure that dangerous plants make the switch, where feasible. 

The poll was done by Lake Research Partners on behalf of the BlueGreen Alliance, Center for Effective Government, Communications Workers of America, Greenpeace, Union of Concerned Scientists and the United Steelworkers.



[1] Lake Research Partners designed this survey, which reached a total of 1,009 adults nationwide in the continental United States (508 by landline, and 501 by cell phone), including 794 likely voters. It was conducted from August 20-23, 2015, and has a margin of error among adults of +/-3.1% and among likely voters of +/-3.5%, both at the 95% confidence interval. The margin of error is higher among subgroups.

[2] Poll Memo:


Poll Powerpoint:


[3] http://preventchemicaldisasters.org/resources/158971-2/

[4] http://comingcleaninc.org/whats-new/whos-in-danger-report#sthash.kzGJ9WDF.dpuf

[5] http://www.foreffectivegov.org/kids-in-danger-zones

[6] The White House, Executive Order — Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/01/executive-order-improving-chemical-facility-safety-and-security