GCCA participates in Agency hearing to air industry questions and concerns. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced August 18, 2022, that it is proposing revisions to the Risk Management Program (RMP) rule to further protect vulnerable communities from chemical accidents, especially those located near facilities with high accident rates.

According to the EPA, the proposed “Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention Rule,” is intended to strengthen the existing program. It includes new safeguards that have not been addressed in prior RMP rules such as enhanced employee participation and transparency for communities on safety decisions. The EPA published its first RMP regulation in 1996. At the end of the Obama Administration in January 2017, the RMP Amendments Final Rule issued new requirements for prevention, response and public disclosure of information. However, key provisions were paused and most never went into effect. Instead, in 2019, the RMP Reconsideration Final Rule rescinded or modified some of the measures in the 2017 rule. The Biden Administration’s proposal would bring back many of the policies rescinded during the Trump Administration as well as add some new elements to the RMP regulation. The EPA currently regulates approximately 12,000 facilities under the RMP program. In the cold chain industry, facilities with over 10,000 pounds of ammonia are subject to RMP. The EPA is proposing to strengthen RMP regulations that will require some facilities to do more to prevent chemical accidents. In particular, it pertains to the types of facilities that have the most frequent or severe accidents. Changes made to the RMP rule in 2019 were identified as an action for review under President Biden’s Executive Order 13990, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.”

Summary of Proposed Changes to the RMP Rule

  • Natural hazards and power loss:
  1. Adding amplifying regulatory text to emphasize that natural hazards (including those that result from climate change) and loss of power are among the hazards that must be addressed in Program 2 hazard reviews and Program 3 process hazard analyses.
  2. Requiring a justification in the Risk Management Plan when hazard evaluation recommendations are not adopted.
  • Facility siting:
  1. Emphasizing that facility siting should be addressed in hazard reviews and explicitly define the facility siting requirement for Program 2 hazard reviews and Program 3 process hazard analyses.
  2. Requiring a justification in the Risk Management Plan when facility siting hazard recommendations are not adopted
  • Safer technologies and alternatives analysis (STAA):
  1. Requiring a STAA and practicability of inherently safer technologies and designs considered for: a. RMP-regulated processes classified under North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) code 324-Petroleum Manufacturing and 325-Chemical Manufacturing within one mile of another RMP-regulated facility that also has a process classified under NAICS code 324 or 325 and b. RMP-regulated hydrofluoric acid alkylation processes classified under NAICS 324.
  2. Requiring a justification in the Risk Management Plan when STAA recommendations are not adopted. Increased access to this information promotes transparency and gives more opportunities for the public to be involved.
  • Root cause analysis:
  1. Requiring a formal root cause analysis incident investigation when facilities have had an RMP-reportable accident.
  • Third-party compliance audits:
  1. Requiring the next scheduled compliance audit be a third-party audit when an RMP-regulated facility experiences:
  2. a. Two RMP-reportable accidents within five years
  3. b. One RMP-reportable accident within five years by a facility with a Program 3 process classified under NAICS code 324 or 325 within one mile of another RMP regulated facility that also has a process classified under NAICS code 324 or 325 or
  4. c. When the agency requires a third-party audit due to conditions at the stationary source that could lead to an accidental release of a regulated substance.
  5. Requiring a justification in the Risk Management Plan when third-party compliance audit recommendations are not adopted.
  • Employee participation:
  1. Requiring employee participation in resolving process hazard analyses, compliance audit and incident investigation recommendations and findings.
  2. Outlining stop work procedures in Program 3 employee participation plans.
  3. Requiring Program 2 and Program 3 employee participation plans to include opportunities for employees to anonymously report RMPreportable accidents or other related RMP non-compliance issues.
  • Community notification of RMP accidents:
  1. Requiring non-responding RMP facilities to develop procedures for informing the public about accidental releases.
  2. Requiring release notification data be provided to local responders. 3. Ensuring a community notification system is in place for notification of RMP-reportable accidents.

Emergency Response Exercises:

  1. Requiring a 10-year frequency for field exercises unless local responders indicate that frequency is infeasible.
  2. Requiring mandatory scope and reporting requirements for emergency response exercises.
  • Enhanced Information Availability:
  • New requirements for the facility to provide chemical hazard information upon request to residents living with six miles of the facility, in the language requested. Under the current regulation, facilities are not required to provide this information. EPA is proposing the following compliance dates for regulated facilities:
  • New STAA, incident investigation root cause analysis, third-party compliance audit, employee participation, emergency response public notification, exercise evaluation reports, and information availability provisions, three years after the effective date of the final rule.
  • Revised emergency response field exercise frequency provision by March 15, 2027, or within 10 years of the date of an emergency response field exercise conducted between March 15, 2017, and the date of publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register.
  • Updates and resubmission of risk management plans with new and revised data elements, four years after the effective date of the final rule.

GCCA has been actively engaged with EPA and industry partners on this and previous RMP rulemakings. The EPA held a series of stakeholder hearings at the end of September to receive stakeholder input on the proposed rule. GCCA participated in the hearing on September 26 and provided oral testimony. GCCA testimony highlighted industry questions and concerns with proposed provisions related to third party audits, information sharing, emergency response and new sections related to natural hazards and power loss. GCCA will also be submitting detailed written comments and continue working with industry partners to communicate concerns with proposed changes to the RMP regulation.

LOWELL RANDEL is Senior Vice President, Government and Legal Affairs at GCCA.

EMAIL: lrandel@gcca.org

Source: Cold Facts November/December  2022 issue


December 5, 2022


Lowell Randel


Government & Regulatory Affairs