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On November 21st, the U.S. EPA issued the Final Rule for reconsideration of changes to the Risk Management Program. The Final Rule comes in response to one of the last regulations finalized at the end of the Obama Administration that amended the RMP program and added requirements to regulated facilities related to third-party audits, safer technology analysis, information sharing and engaging with emergency responders. Shortly after taking office, the Trump Administration issued a series of delays to the effective date of the RMP amendments and began the process of rulemaking to reconsider the changes made by the Obama Administration. GCCA has been an active participant throughout the rulemaking process.
The final so-called “Reconsideration Rule” rescinds almost all the requirements added in 2017 to the accident prevention program provisions of the RMP regulation. EPA is rescinding all additional requirements for third-party compliance audits and safer technology and alternatives analysis (STAA) included in the 2017 rule. The Final Rule also rescinds the requirement for hazard reviews to include findings from incident investigations. The rescission of the third-party audit provisions is a major accomplishment and was one of GCCA’s top priorities for the rulemaking.
Below is a summary of additional provisions included in the Final Rule:
Chemical accident prevention provisions
For incident investigations, the Final Rule rescinds the following requirements added in 2017:
- Conducting root cause analysis.
- Added data elements for incident investigation reports, including a schedule to address recommendations and a 12-month completion deadline.
- Investigating any incident resulting in a catastrophic release that also results in the affected process being decommissioned or destroyed.
- Removes text “(i.e., was a near miss)” that EPA added in 2017 to describe an incident that could reasonably have resulted in a catastrophic release.
Emergency response provisions
- Modifies the local emergency response coordination amendments by replacing the phrase that requires facilities to share information that local emergency planning and response organizations identify as relevant to local emergency response planning with revised language pertaining to sharing information necessary for developing and implementing the local emergency response plan.
- Modifies the exercise program provisions, by removing the minimum frequency requirement for field exercises. EPA is also establishing more flexible scope and documentation provisions for both field and tabletop exercises by only recommending, and not requiring, items specified for inclusion in exercises and exercise evaluation reports, while still requiring documentation of both types of exercises.
Public information availability provisions
- Rescinds the requirements for providing to the public upon request, chemical hazard information and access to community emergency preparedness information as well as the requirement to provide specific chemical hazard information at public meetings.
- Modifies the requirement for the owner/operator of a stationary source to hold a public meeting to provide accident information required by only requiring a public meeting following the occurrence of a risk management plan reportable accident with offsite impacts specified in § 68.42(a) (i.e., known offsite deaths, injuries, evacuations, sheltering in place, property damage, or environmental damage).
- Retains the requirement that public meetings required under occur within 90 days of an accident.
GCCA has actively worked on the rulemaking process since the first stages when the RMP amendments were proposed during the Obama Administration. GCCA led a coalition of industry partners to advocate for sound RMP policies and has provided oral and written comments to EPA throughout the process. The Final Rule announced on November 21st marks the successful conclusion of several years of rulemaking related to RMP. Opponents of the Final Rule are expected to consider legal challenges to the rulemaking and GCCA will closely monitor any additional developments.