US EPA Further Postpones Effective Date of Risk Management Program Regulations Amendments

EPA has further postponed the effective date of the Risk Management Program (RMP) changes scheduled originally to take affect on March 14, 2017 then postponed to March 21, 2017. The new effective date is June 19, 2017. These changes are intended to improve process safety, help local emergency authorities plan for and response to accidents, and improve public awareness of chemical hazards at regulated sources. These changes update the accident prevention program requirements, the emergency response requirements, and the availability of chemical hazard information.

On January 13, 2017 the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its proposed changes to the Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations. These changes are being made in response to Executive Order 13650 “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security,” which was issued after the April 17, 2013 explosion at the West Fertilizer facility in West, Texas that killed 15 people. These changes are intended to improve process safety, help local emergency authorities plan for and response to accidents, and improve public awareness of chemical hazards at regulated sources. These changes update the accident prevention program requirements, the emergency response requirements, and the availability of chemical hazard information. However, on March 16, 2017 EPA issued a stay delaying the effective date of the rule to June 19, 2017. The purpose of this stay, per EPA, is to reconsider the rulemaking in response to a petition to reconsider filed on February 28, 2017.

Risk Management Program Regulations Amendments

The accident prevention program has three changes. First, all facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes will be required to conduct a root cause analysis during an incident investigation of a catastrophic release or an incident that could have reasonably resulted in a catastrophic release. Second, facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes will be required to have an independent third-party conduct a compliance audit following a reportable release. Currently, compliance audits are required, but a facility may conduct a self-audit. Finally, facilities with Program 3 regulated processes with a NAICS code of 322 (paper manufacturing), 324 petroleum and coal products manufacturing), and 325 (chemical manufacturing) will be required to evaluate the feasibility of any inherently safer technology and alternatives analysis as part of their process hazard analysis.

EPA’s emergency response program requirements also have proposed revisions. First, facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes would be required to coordinate with local authorities annually. These facilities would also be required to conduct annual notification exercises to ensure that their emergency contact information is current. Finally, all facilities subject to the emergency response program requirements of subpart E would be required to conduct a full field exercise every five years and one tabletop exercise in the other years. Facilities that have an RMP reportable accident would be required to conduct a full field exercise within a year of the accident.

EPA’s proposed amendments are also intended to increase the public availability of chemical hazard information. All facilities would be required to provide basic information to the public through easily accessible means, such as a facility web site or through public libraries or government offices. All facilities would also be required to hold a public meeting at least 90 days after a reportable accident. Rather than require certain facilities to provide information elements upon request by LEPCs and other local emergency response agencies, EPA, in these final regulations, is requiring the owner or operator of a stationary source to share information that is relevant to emergency response planning as part of the coordination activities that occur annually between facility representatives and local emergency response agencies.

These rules now become effective on June 19, 2017 if EPA does not choose to rescind or modify the final rule.

Sources:

US EPA Delays RMP Effective Date, 82 FR 13968 (2017).