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Chemicals are an important part of many aspects of our lives; however, improper handling and management of chemicals can result in catastrophic releases that have severe and lasting impacts—loss of life, injury, property damage, community disruption. USEPA’s Risk Management Plan (RMP) data shows that in the last 10 years, there have been more than 1,517 reportable incidents of accidental chemical releases. Those incidents were responsible for 58 deaths, 17,099 injuries, the evacuation or shelter-in-place of almost 500,000 people, and over $2 billion in property damage.
Charting the Changes to RMP
The USEPA’s RMP Rule (Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act Amendments) is aimed at reducing the frequency and severity of accidental chemical releases. Changes to the RMP Rule have been in progress since former President Obama issued Executive Order (EO) 1365, Improving Chemical Safety and Security, in August 2013. The focus of the EO is to reduce risks associated with hazardous chemicals to owners and operators, workers, and communities by enhancing the safety and security of chemical facilities. Modernizing policies and regulations—including the RMP Rule—falls under this umbrella.
A July 2014 Request for Information (RFI) sought initial comment on potential revisions to RMP under the EO. This was followed by a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel discussion in November 2015. On March 14, 2016, the USEPA published Proposed Rule: Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act, Section 112(r)(7), outlining proposed amendments to the RMP Rule.
Since the initial action to revise the RMP Rule commenced two and a half years ago, the USEPA has received over 60,000 public comments and has had extensive engagement with nearly 1,800 people.
The much anticipated final RMP amendments were published in the Federal Register on January 13, 2017. According to the USEPA, these amendments are intended to:
- Prevent catastrophic accidents by improving accident prevention program requirements
- Enhance emergency preparedness to ensure coordination between facilities and local communities
- Improve information access to help the public understand the risks at RMP facilities
- Improve third-party audits at RMP facilities
The final changes in the RMP Rule are outlined in the table below.
The effective date for the final RMP amendments is March 14, 2017. Compliance dates are set according to this date, as follows:
The Future of RMP
The final RMP amendments have the potential to significantly affect the 12,500 facilities in the U.S. that are subject to the RMP program. However, like many environmental rules, RMP faces an uncertain future under the Trump Administration. It is not clear at this point whether the final RMP Rule will actually be implemented as published—or at all.
Among the possible outcomes, environmental law firm Beveridge & Diamond PC cites the following possibilities:
- Congress may rescind the Rule using the Congressional Review Act.
- The USEPA might stay the Rule and then unilaterally seek to repeal it through amendment.
- The Rule might be challenged through a petition for reconsideration to the USEPA or a petition for review by the federal courts.
Kestrel will continue to track the RMP Rule and potential upcoming actions or compliance dates that may affect impacted facilities.