WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to revise its Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations 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.
Mathy Stanislaus, EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Land and Emergency Management said in a statement: “Chemicals are a necessary part of our everyday lives; however, as we have too often seen they can cause loss of life, injury and significant property damage. It is these dangers that we are working to prevent and minimize as we propose revisions to the RMP, such as improving our prevention program requirements, ensuring coordination with first responders, and ensuring that accident planning protects local communities that need to evacuate or shelter-in-place during an accident.”
While numerous chemical plants 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 costing 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.
The proposed revisions to EPA’s RMP regulations is a key action item under President Obama’s Executive Order (EO) 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security. EPA shares RMP information with state and local officials to help them plan for and prevent chemical accidents and releases.
This proposal is the result of a review undertaken to modernize the existing EPA RMP and information gathered from feedback obtained during listening sessions, Webinars, meetings with stakeholder groups, stakeholder conferences and public comments in response to EPA’s Request for Information.
The proposed amendments are intended to improve existing risk management plan requirements to enhance chemical safety at RMP facilities by:
• Requiring the consideration of safer technologies and alternatives by including the assessment of Inherently Safer Technologies and Designs in the Process Hazard Assessment;
• Requiring third party audits and root cause analysis to identify process safety improvements for accident prevention;
• Enhancing emergency planning and preparedness requirements to help ensure coordination between facilities and local communities;
• Strengthening emergency response planning to help ensure emergency response capabilities are available to mitigate the effect of a chemical accident;
• Improving the ability of LEPCs (Local Emergency Planning Committees) and local emergency response officials to better prepare for emergencies both individually and with one another; and
• Improving access to information to help the public understand the risks at RMP facilities.
The RMP rule is just one aspect of EPA and the U.S. Government’s efforts to enhance the safety and security of chemical facilities throughout the nation. We continue our work under EO 13650 by assisting local communities in developing a local emergency contingency plan and facilitating a dialog between the community and chemical facilities on chemical accident prevention and preparedness.
The public will have 60 days from publication in the Federal Register to submit written comments online at www.regulations.gov (the portal for federal rulemaking), or by mail.