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EPA Proposes Stronger Regulations to Protect Communities from Chemical Accidents

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing revisions to the Risk Management Program (RMP) rule to further protect vulnerable communities from chemical accidents, especially those living near facilities with high accident rates.

The proposed rule, titled the “Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention Rule,” would strengthen the existing program and includes new safeguards that have not been addressed in prior Risk Management Plan rules, such as enhanced employee participation and transparency for communities on safety decisions.

The Risk Management Plan rule protects public health and the environment by requiring industrial facilities with high accident rates to prevent accidental air releases of dangerous chemicals that could cause deaths, injuries, property, and environmental damage, or require evacuations in surrounding communities.

This rule is a critical piece of EPA’s work to advance environmental justice as these facilities are often located in communities that have historically borne a disproportionate burden from pollution.

Changes made to the RMP rule in 2019 were identified as an action for review under President Biden’s Executive Order 13990, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.”

The proposed rule would:

  • Provide greater protections for communities living near Risk Management Plan facilities, many of which are underserved and overburdened by pollution.

  • Promote environmental justice through increased availability of information for fenceline communities in their requested language.

  • Require safer technologies and alternatives analysis for certain facilities with high accident rates.

  • Advance greater employee participation and opportunity for decision-making in facility accident prevention requirements.

  • Require third-party audits for facilities with a bad track record of accidents.

  • Enhance facility planning and preparedness efforts.

And YOU have an opportunity to weigh because the EPA will engage stakeholders during a public comment period.

The public may comment on the proposed rule at (Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2022-0174) until 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. EPA is also holding three virtual public hearings on the proposed rule on Sept. 26, 27, and 28.

How Did The RMP Rule Come About?

Section 112(r)(7) of the Clean Air Act Amendments require 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.

EPA published its first such regulation in 1996. Then in January 2017, the RMP Amendments Final Rule issued new requirements for prevention, response, and public disclosure of information – but key provisions were paused, and most never went into effect.

Instead, in 2019, the RMP Reconsideration Final Rule rescinded or modified some of the measures in the 2017 rule.

How Many Facilities Are Subject to the RMP Rule?

Currently, EPA regulates about 12,000 RMP facilities throughout the country such as agricultural supply distributors, water and wastewater treatment facilities, chemical manufacturers and distributors, food and beverage manufacturers, chemical warehouses, oil refineries, and other chemical facilities.

Local Facilities Subject to the Risk Management Plan Rule

Because Title V operating permits issued by the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) incorporate Risk Management Plan regulations, all of those facilities would be subject to the new rule.

GASP continues to follow this issue and will keep you posted as the rulemaking process proceeds.

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