US EPA proposes 'Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention Rule', offering revisions to further protect vulnerable communities from chemical accidents; proposal includes enhanced employee participation, transparency on safety decisions

Sample article from our Government & Public Policy

WASHINGTON , August 22, 2022 (press release) –

 

Proposed Rule Aims to Enhance Chemical Safety Provisions and Help Protect the Nation’s Most Vulnerable Communities

Today, 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, entitled the “Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention Rule,” would strengthen the existing program and includes new safeguards that have not been addressed in prior RMP rules, such as enhanced employee participation and transparency for communities on safety decisions.

“Protecting public health is central to EPA's mission, particularly as we adapt to the challenges of climate change, and the proposal announced today advances this effort, especially for those in vulnerable communities,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “This rule will better protect communities from chemical accidents, and advance environmental justice for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by these facilities.” 

The Agency’s RMP 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 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.

EPA is proposing amendments that will foster safer communities by reducing the frequency of accidental chemical releases and their adverse effects. EPA is proposing to strengthen RMP regulations that will require some facilities to do more to prevent chemical accidents, particularly types of facilities that have the most frequent or severe accidents. 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.”EXITEXIT EPA WEBSITE

Highlights of the proposed rule include:

  • Providing greater protections for communities living near RMP facilities, many of which are underserved and overburdened by pollution. 
  • Emphasizing the requirement for regulated facilities to evaluate risks of natural hazards and climate change, including any associated loss of power.
  • Promoting environmental justice through increased availability of information for fenceline communities in their requested language.
  • Requiring safer technologies and alternatives analysis for certain facilities with high accident rates.
  • Advancing greater employee participation and opportunity for decision-making in facility accident prevention requirements.
  • Requiring third party audits for facilities with a bad track record of accidents. 
  • Enhancing facility planning and preparedness efforts.

EPA will engage stakeholders involved in this rulemaking during a robust public comment period. The public may comment on the proposed rule at www.regulations.govEXITEXIT EPA WEBSITE (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 September 26, 27, and 28, 2022.

For more information on the proposed rule: RMP Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention Proposed Rule.

For more information on the public hearings: Virtual Public Hearings on the RMP Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention Proposed Rule.

Background

Section 112(r)(7) of the Clean Air Act Amendments requires 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 RMP regulation in 1996. 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.

Currently, EPA regulates approximately 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.

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