The final RMP rule amendments have encountered extreme resistance since EPA first issued them in mid-January. EPA stated that 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. However, numerous industry members and trade associations have continued to push back against implementation of these amendments.
After the White House's regulatory freeze pushed back RMP's effective date to March 21, ACA and 20 other trade associations signed onto a coalition petition to Congressional leaders urging them to utilize the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block implementation of this rule. ACA and the other trade associations maintained that the final RMP rule not only imposes significant new costs without identifying or quantifying the safety benefits that will be achieved through these new requirements; but that it may compromise the security of facilities, emergency responders, and communities. Moreover, ACA and the other trade associations underscored that the current RMP regulations are not in need of revision because they include requirements that have produced and will continue to drive continuous safety improvements and already provide robust protection for our employees and the public.
Because of this coalition effort, Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-OK-2) introduced H.J.Res.59 on February 1 that would allow RMP to be overturned in Congress if the CRA joint resolution of disapproval passes in both the House and Senate. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) is the Senate sponsor of this CRA joint resolution. Industry members and trade associations are continuing their lobbying effort in D.C. to try and push this joint resolution through Congress.
In the meantime, newly confirmed EPA Administrator Pruitt further delayed the effective date of the final RMP rule amendments last week. The further delay to June 19 will provide the Administrator and his staff more time to reconsider these amendments. It will also allot additional time for industry members and trade associations to make their case against implementation. In fact, EPA announced that it will prepare a notice of proposed rulemaking soon that will provide industry members and the public an opportunity to comment further on the issues raised in the petition for reconsideration and other potential matters.
Lastly, a lawsuit filed in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on March 13 against implementation of the RMP rule amendments challenges the legality of the final RMP rule amendments. The suit brought by the American Chemistry Council against EPA claims that the agency exceeded its statutory authority in issuing that final rule; failed to follow procedures required by the Administrative Procedures Act and Clean Air Act for agency rulemaking; did not adequately consider costs or assess benefits; and did not adequately respond to all significant comments.
These responses to the final RMP rule amendments now leave options for industry to block RMP through EPA action, a win at the D.C. Circuit Court, or by legislative repeal under the CRA.