Accident rates are particularly high for petroleum and coal manufacturing and chemical manufacturing facilities, according to the EPA. The most accidents logged were in Texas, followed by Louisiana and California.
The 10 states with the most accidents from 2004 to 2020
Number of accidents at facilities handling hazardous chemicals tracked by the EPA
Guardian graphic. Source: EPA.
Though industry representatives say the rate of accidents is trending down, worker and community advocates disagree. They say incomplete data and delays in reporting incidents give a false sense of improvement.
The EPA itself says that by several measurements, accidents at facilities are becoming worse: evacuations, sheltering and the average annual rate of people seeking medical treatment stemming from chemical accidents are on the rise. Total annual costs are approximately $477m, including costs related to injuries and deaths.
“Accidental releases remain a significant concern,” the EPA said.
In August, the EPA proposed several changes to the Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations that apply to plants dealing with hazardous chemicals. The rule changes reflect the recognition by EPA that many chemical facilities are located in areas that are vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, including power outages, flooding, hurricanes and other weather events.
The proposed changes include enhanced emergency preparedness, increased public access to information about hazardous chemicals risks communities face and new accident prevention requirements.