EPA final rule amends chemical plant risk management requirements

The US Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule amending its risk management program (RMP) requirements for petrochemical and other chemical plants to make accidental releases less likely and improve emergency responses. It will help prevent accidents, such as one at a West Texas agricultural fertilizer plant in April 2013 that killed 14 people, EPA said on Dec. 21.

“This rule is based on extensive engagement with nearly 1,800 people over the last two and a half years,” said Mathy Stanislaus, EPA's Assistant Administrator for the Office of Land and Emergency Management. “These changes are intended to protect the lives of emergency responders and the public, while preserving information security.”

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 said. It shares RMP information with state and local officials to help them plan for and prevent chemical accidents and releases.

EPA said the amendments to its RMP regulations are a key action item under US President Barack Obama's Executive Order (EO) 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security. While developing and finalizing the rule, the agency met with stakeholder groups, solicited public comments, held listening sessions and webinars, and considered extensive comments on the proposed rule, it indicated.

It said 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.          

American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers Pres. Chet Thompson immediately criticized EPA’s risk management program amendments. “This regulation is the definition of a midnight rule rushed to completion without adequate review and consideration, and should either be withdrawn or subjected to congressional disapproval,” he said on Dec. 21.

“Safety is a core value of AFPM’s members, but EPA’s revision to this rule will have no meaningful impact on safety and only increase costs,” Thompson maintained. “If advancing worker and public safety is the goal, we don’t believe this rule does that.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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