The EPA recently proposed revisions to strengthen the Risk Management Program (RMP) rule, including enhanced employee participation and transparency for communities on safety decisions.
The RMP rule requires industrial facilities with high accident rates to prevent accidental air releases of dangerous chemicals that could cause deaths, injuries, or property and environmental damage or require evacuations in surrounding communities.
“Protecting public health is central to EPA’s mission, particularly as we adapt to the challenges of climate change, and the proposal announced today advances this effort, especially for those in vulnerable communities,” says EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan in an Agency press release. “This rule will better protect communities from chemical accidents, and advance environmental justice for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by these facilities.”
The proposed rule is entitled Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention Rule and will require some facilities to do more to prevent chemical accidents, particularly facilities that have the most frequent or severe accidents. The proposed amendments will foster safer communities by reducing the frequency of accidental chemical releases and their adverse effects.
Highlights of the proposed rule include:
- Providing greater protections for communities living near RMP facilities, many of which are underserved and overburdened by pollution;
- Emphasizing the requirement for regulated facilities to evaluate risks of natural hazards and climate change, including any associated loss of power;
- Promoting environmental justice through increased availability of information for fenceline communities in their requested language;
- Requiring safer technologies and alternatives analysis for certain facilities with high accident rates;
- Advancing greater employee participation and opportunity for decision-making in facility accident prevention requirements;
- Requiring third-party audits for facilities with a bad track record of accidents; and
- Enhancing facility planning and preparedness efforts.
Section 112(r)(7) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments requires the EPA to publish regulations and guidance for chemical accident prevention at facilities that use certain hazardous substances. These regulations and guidance are contained in the RMP rule, which requires facilities using extremely hazardous substances to develop programs to prevent and mitigate accidents that could release those chemicals into the environment.
There are currently 12,000 facilities regulated by the RMP regulations, including agricultural supply distributors, water and wastewater treatment facilities, chemical manufacturers and distributors, food and beverage manufacturers, chemical warehouses, oil refineries, and other chemical facilities.
The Agency is promoting a “robust” public comment period. Online comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov under Docket #EPA-HQ-OLEM-2022-0174 until October 31, 2022. The EPA is also holding three virtual public hearings on the proposed rule on September 26, 27, and 28, 2022.
To register for one of the public hearings, see the Virtual Public Hearings on the RMP Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention Proposed Rule website.