On March 14, EPA published in the Federal Register a proposed rule that would amend its Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations. This proposal is part of President Obama's initiative under Executive Order (EO) 13650 to improve chemical facility safety and security. A number of ACA companies are regulated under the RMP program.
EPA will be accepting comments on the rule through May 13.
The RMP program applies to all stationary sources with processes that contain more than a threshold of a regulated substance. The plan elements are intended to prevent accidental releases and reducing the severity of releases that occur. All sources must prepare and submit an RMP to EPA at least every five years.
EO 13650 requires that various federal agencies develop options for improved chemical facility safety and security that identify "improvements to existing risk management practices through agency programs, private sector initiatives, Government guidance, outreach, standards, and regulations." One agency program in existence is the RMP Program implemented by EPA under section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7412(r)). Section 6(c) of EO 13650 requires the EPA Administrator to review the chemical hazards covered by the RMP program, and expand, implement and enforce the program to address any additional hazards. EPA released a Request for Information in 2014 with a number of different proposals for how to amend the regulations, and ACA commented on the proposal (see comments). ACA also had a member company serve on the Small Business Review Panel administered by EPA, OMB and SBA to discuss the impacts of some of the proposal on small business entities.
Of the many different proposed options, EPA has chosen seven major areas to focus for proposed amendments, including the following:
- Third Party Audits – This provision would require a facility that has an RMP reportable accident to use an independent third party to conduct its next scheduled audit. The proposal contains criteria for auditor competence and independence.
- Incident Investigations and Root Cause Analysis – The proposal would require an incident investigation after any incident that resulted in or could have resulted in a catastrophic release. The facility would identify the root cause of (i.e., the fundamental reason for) the incident and submit a report.
- Safer Technology Alternatives Analysis – Program 3 facilities in three industry categories (paper manufacturing, coal and petroleum products manufacturing, and chemical manufacturing) would be required to evaluate safer technology and alternatives when conducting the process hazard assessment already required by the current RMP rule.
- Local Coordination – The proposal would increase communication with Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) by requiring annual coordination by facilities with LEPCs to clarify response needs, emergency plans, roles, and responsibilities.
- Emergency Response Exercises – The proposal would require responding facilities to conduct annual tabletop emergency response exercises with a field exercise every five years. All facilities would perform annual notification exercises.
- Information Sharing to LEPC's – The proposal would add new disclosure requirements for facilities to LEPCs. LEPCs would receive Incident Investigation Reports, a summary of inherently safer technology adopted according to a Safer Technology Alternatives Analysis, and emergency response exercise reports. The public would receive chemical hazard information, summaries of emergency response exercises, and LEPC contact information.
- Increasing Access to Existing Public Information – The proposal seeks input on increasing the public's access to existing public information to assist participation in accident preparedness planning, including chemical hazard information, summaries of emergency response exercises, and LEPC contact information.