Apr 26, 2017

RMP Rule Delayed till February 2019

On March 29, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a proposed rule to delay the effective date of the Risk Management Program (RMP) final rule amendments to Feb.19, 2019. This action comes after a series of prior delays issued by the White House and EPA in January and mid-March. In January, the White House issued a memorandum implementing a freeze on federal regulations pending further administrative review. RMP was one of the regulations subject to the regulatory freeze, and the effective date was subsequently delayed until March 21, 2017. However, on March 16, EPA Administrator Pruitt issued a final rule that provided for a further three-month administrative stay of the effective date until June 19, 2017.

Now, EPA is proposing to significantly and concretely delay the effective date of the RMP final rule amendments until February 2019. This latest delay would allow EPA more time to review and reconsider the final RMP rule amendments.

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.

In March, 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 Feb. 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 addition, a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on March 13, 2017, against implementation of the RMP rule amendments. This lawsuit 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 the 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.