Comments: No Comments
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.
The USEPA’s Risk Management Plan (RMP) Rule (Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act Amendments) is aimed at reducing the frequency and severity of accidental chemical releases. While the intent of the RMP Rule is positive, there has been much controversy over what the rule requires. This has resulted most recently in the RMP Reconsideration Proposed Rule, which was published on May 30, 2018.
The History of Modernizing RMP
RMP regulations were first created in 1996 to protect first responders and communities adjacent to facilities with chemical substances. Changes to the original RMP Rule have been in progress since former President Obama issued Executive Order (EO) 1365, Improving Chemical Safety and Security, in August 2013. 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.
The much anticipated final RMP Amendments were published in the Federal Register on January 13, 2017. According to the USEPA, these amendments were 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
After the USEPA published the final rule, many industry groups and several states filed challenges and petitions, arguing that the rule was overly burdensome, created potential security risks, and did not properly coordinate with OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) standard. Under the Trump administration, the USEPA delayed the effective date of the rule until February 2019 and announced its plan to reconsider the rule’s provisions.
That brings us full circle to the RMP Reconsideration Proposed Rule that was published at the end of May. According to the USEPA, this reconsideration proposes to:
- Maintain consistency of RMP accident prevention requirements with the OSHA PSM standard.
- Address security concerns.
- Reduce unnecessary regulations and regulatory costs.
- Revise compliance dates to provide necessary time for program changes
USEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a press release, “The rule proposes to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens, address the concerns of stakeholders and emergency responders on the ground, and save Americans roughly $88 million a year.”
To accomplish this, the reconsideration proposes making the following changes:
- All accident prevention program provisions have been rescinded in the reconsideration so the USEPA can coordinate revisions with OSHA and keep regulatory costs in check. This includes repealing the requirements for conducting:
- Third-party audits
- Safer Technology and Alternatives Analysis (STAAs) as part of the process hazard analyses
- Root cause analyses as part of an accident investigation of a catastrophic release or near-miss
- Most of the public information availability provisions have been rescinded due to their redundancy and security concerns, particularly regarding specific chemical hazard information. The USEPA is proposing to retain the requirement for facilities to hold a public meeting within 90 days of a reportable incident.
Many of the emergency coordination and exercise provisions of the Amendments rule are staying–but are being modified to address security concerns and provide more flexibility. The Reconsideration Proposed Rule still requires facilities to:
- Coordinate response needs at least annual with local emergency planning councils (LEPCs) and response organizations, and to document these activities
- Provide emergency action plans, response plans, updated emergency contact information, and other information necessary for developing and implementing the local emergency response plan to LEPCs
- Perform annual exercises to test emergency response notification mechanisms (Program 2 and 3 facilities)
The proposed rule is available for public comment for 60 days after its publication date (May 30, 2018). In addition, a public hearing is scheduled for June 14, 2018. If the Reconsideration Proposed Rule is published, compliance dates will be as follows based on the effective date of the final rule.
For more information, visit the USEPA website on the RMP Reconsideration Proposed Rule.