Jan 18, 2017

EPA Issues Final Rule Amending Risk Management Program

(PAINT.ORG) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published finalized amendments to the Risk Management Program (RMP) Rule in the Jan. 13 Federal Register. According to EPA, the amendments made to the final rule were aimed at modernizing RMP by (1) making changes to the accident prevention program requirements, (2) enhancing the emergency response and preparedness requirements, and (3) modifying the information availability requirements. The final rule will be effective on March 14, 2017.

In general, EPA's RMP program applies to all stationary sources with processes that contain more than a threshold of a regulated substance. The program's elements are intended to prevent accidental releases and reduce the severity of releases that occur. All sources must prepare and submit an RMP to EPA at least every five years. In addition, RMP Program 3 facilities involve processes subject to OSHA's Process Safety Management (PSM) Standard or are in one of the specified NAICS codes, such as chemical manufacturing. Together, PSM and RMP form the regulatory framework for prevention of catastrophic chemical accidents at fixed facilities.

During the rulemaking process last year, ACA submitted comments to EPA in response to numerous changes it proposed to make to the RMP program. A number of ACA companies have facilities subject to RMP requirements, particularly Program 3 facilities which have the most stringent requirements. ACA's main concern with the RMP proposal is that the proposed changes would not actually enhance chemical facility safety, but would instead create significant administrative burdens and higher compliance costs without commensurate benefits in safety. EPA acknowledged in the final rule that it did take each comment received into consideration, but several of its proposed amendments withstood the criticism and remain in the final rule.

ACA will be hosting a webinar for members on January 25, 2017 from 1:00-2:30 PM (EST) to discuss the substantial changes to the RMP. Please contact ACA's Rhett Cash for registration and any other information.

Specific amendments to each area include the following.

Accident Prevention Program Requirements

Amendments made to the accident prevention program requirements include changes to the incident investigation and accident history requirements, modifications to third party audit requirements, and alterations to the safer technology and alternatives analysis (STAA) requirements.

Incident Investigation and Accident History Requirements
The RMP final rule requires additional reporting elements to investigations that are required after any incident that resulted in or could reasonably have resulted in a catastrophic release (i.e., a "near miss"). The facility must identify the fundamental reason ("root cause analysis") for the incident, and prepare a report within 12 months of the incident that includes consequences of the accident and any emergency response actions taken.

Third-Party Audit Requirements
This provision requires an independent third party to conduct a compliance audit at a facility if there has been a reportable accident, or if an implementing agency determines that a third-party audit is necessary (based on information about the facility or about a prior third-party audit at the facility). The final rule also contains criteria for auditor competence and independence. In addition, the owner or operator must engage a third-party auditor, and complete the audit within 12 months of when either (a) an implementing agency determines that conditions at the facility could lead to an accidental release of a regulated substance; or (b) a previous third-party audit failed to meet the competency or independence criteria specified in the rule. Lastly, the third-party audit may be conducted by a third-party auditor or a team of auditors led by a third-party auditor.

Safer Technology and Alternatives Analysis (STAA) Requirements
The RMP final rule modifies the process hazard analyses (PHAs) provisions to require certain industry sectors with Program 3 processes (including the chemical manufacturing sector) to conduct a safer technology and alternatives analysis and to evaluate the practicability of any inherently safer technologies or designs. The STAA must be included in the PHA report, and refers to risk reduction strategies developed using a hierarchy of controls that are considered inherent, passive, active, and procedural.

Emergency Response and Preparedness Requirements

Amendments made to the emergency response preparedness requirements include changes to the local responders' coordination requirements and modifications to facility exercise requirements.

Local Responders Coordination Requirements
The RMP final rule increases coordination with Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) to enhance local emergency preparedness and response planning by requiring facilities to conduct annual coordination with LEPCs or local emergency response officials to clarify response needs, emergency plans, roles, and responsibilities. Qualifying facilities must develop an emergency response plan, develop procedures for the use, inspection, and testing of emergency response equipment, conduct training for employees in relevant procedures, and update the emergency response plan to reflect changes at the facility. Furthermore, the owner or operator of a facility must coordinate response needs with local emergency planning and response organizations to determine how the facility is addressed in the community-wide emergency response plan and to ensure that local response organizations are fully aware of the regulated substances at the facility, their quantities, the risks presented by covered processes, and the resources and capabilities at the facility to respond to an accidental release of those substances. Lastly, the final rule requires the owner or operator to review and update the emergency response plan when appropriate based on changes at the facility or new information obtained from coordination activities, emergency response exercises, incident investigations, or other available information.

 Facility Exercise Requirements
The final rule requires qualifying facilities to perform notification exercises and to perform tabletop and field exercises. The owner or operator must consult with local officials to establish an appropriate frequency for field and tabletop exercises, with a minimum timeframe of one notification exercise per year, one tabletop exercise every three years, and at least one field exercise every 10 years.

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