EPA risk management rule is problematic, trade groups tell Congress

The American Petroleum Institute, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, US Chamber of Commerce and 18 other business groups asked congressional leaders to use the Congressional Review Act to disapprove the US Environmental Protection Agency’s final risk management practices rule covering accidental chemical releases.

They sent their Jan. 25 letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Ranking Minority Member Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), and Ranking Minority Member Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a few weeks after EPA issued the final rule (OGJ Online, Dec. 22, 2016).

“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, it may actually compromise the security of our facilities, emergency responders, and our communities,” the trade associations said in the letter.

Current RMP regulations include requirements that have produced and will continue to drive continuous safety improvements, provide robust protection for plant employees and the public, and are not in need of revision, they maintained.

Unfortunately, EPA’s final RMP rule fails to identify any meaningful safety benefit and may actually increase security risks given the rule’s expanded public information disclosure requirements, they continued. “It is not just industry that has this concern. White House Office of Management and Budget records show that during interagency review, [US] Department of Homeland Security officials and others repeatedly raised security concerns,” the letter said.

It also is not clear what, if any, safety benefits this final rule would provide, the associations said. “As you know, the risk management program is intended to reduce risk beyond a facility’s fence line, while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Process Safety Management (PSM) program addresses risk within the fence line,” the associations said. “Despite this clear legal distinction, the majority of the purported benefits from the EPA rule revisions come from OSHA-regulated areas within the fence line.

“The lack of identifiable and quantifiable benefits stands in stark contrast to the clear costs associated with this rule,” they maintained. “Whether it be the requirement of third-party auditor participation that will reduce the pool of qualified auditors, changing well-established audit procedures already designed to maximize safety effectiveness, or imposing ineffective requirements to consider ‘inherently safer technology-design,’ the final rule includes a litany of costly changes that have not been shown to increase safety.”

The associations said that while they support sensible regulations that can be shown to improve safety and security, EPA’s RMP final rule fails this basic test. They recommended that the 115th Congress rescind it under the CRA to protect national security and give EPA time to consider what, if any, revisions to the RMP regulations are needed to reduce the risk of an accidental release.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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