WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a rule amending its Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations to reduce the likelihood of accidental releases at chemical facilities and improve emergency response activities when those releases occur.
This rule is the latest in a series of actions the federal government has taken in consultation with industry, local and state governments, and other stakeholders to improve chemical process safety, assist local emergency authorities in planning for, and responding to, accidents, and improve public awareness of chemical hazards at regulated sources.
According to a news release, EPA said this rule will help prevent chemical accidents, such as the explosion in West Texas in 2013, and their devastating effects. While numerous chemical plans are operated safely, in the last 10 years more than 1,500 accidents were reported by RMP facilities. These accidents are responsible for causing nearly 60 deaths; some 17,000 people being injured or seeking medical treatment; almost 500,000 people being evacuated or sheltered-in-place; and more than $2 billion in property damages.
The Accidental Release Prevention regulations under Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) – also known as the EPA RMP regulations – require covered facilities to develop and implement a risk management program. EPA shares RMP information with state and local officials to help them plan for and prevent chemical accidents and releases.
The amendments to EPA’s RMP regulations are a key action item under Executive Order (EO) 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security.
While developing and finalizing the rule, EPA met with stakeholder groups, solicited public comments, held listening sessions and webinars, and considered extensive comments on the proposed rule.
The amendments are intended to:
- Prevent catastrophic accidents by improving accident prevention program requirements;
- Enhance emergency preparedness to ensure coordination between facilities and local communities;
- Improve information access to help the public understand the risks at RMP facilities; and
- Improve third-party audits at RMP facilities.