Started in 1982, the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) run by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration exempts selected sites from regular workplace safety reviews. These sites’ safety protocols are thoroughly reviewed before they are accepted into the program. But in Kansas, and elsewhere around the country, workers have died at these VPP sites.
Three Kansas communities with a combined population equal to that of Lawrence are at risk of exposure to a chemical that can be 100 times more lethal than carbon monoxide. The substance is hydrofluoric acid, which is used to make high-octane gasoline, and according to worst-case estimates that oil refiners in El Dorado, McPherson, and Coffeyville have provided to federal regulators, an accidental release could expose more than 92,000 nearby residents to dangerous levels through a toxic cloud. Within range are schools, residences, hospitals, and recreation areas.