The EPA published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in Monday’s Federal Register (available on-line today; 81 FR 13637-13712) for revisions to their Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations. The revisions are mostly in response to the President’s executive order on Chemical Safety and Security (EO 13650) and the EPA’s request for information (RFI) supporting that EO.
The major points of the NPRM address the following three areas:
The NPRM proposed three changes to the accident prevention program. These include:
• Requiring all facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes to conduct a root cause analysis as part of an incident investigation of a catastrophic release or an incident that could have reasonably resulted in a catastrophic release (i.e., a near-miss);
• Requiring regulated facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes to contract with an independent third-party to perform a compliance audit after the facility has a reportable release; and
• Requiring selected facilities to conduct a safer technology and alternatives analysis (STAA) as part of their PHA, and to evaluate the feasibility of any inherently safer technology (IST) identified.
The NPRM proposed four changes to the emergency response enhancements. These include:
• Requiring all facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes to coordinate with the local emergency response agencies at least once a year to ensure that resources and capabilities are in place to respond to an accidental release of a regulated substance;
• Requiring all facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes to conduct notification exercises annually to ensure that their emergency contact information is accurate and complete; and
• Requiring all facilities subject to the emergency response program requirements of subpart E of the rule (or “responding facilities”) conduct a full field exercise at least once every five years and one tabletop exercise annually in the other years; and
• Requiring responding facilities that have an RMP reportable accident to conduct a full field exercise within a year of the accident.
The NPRM proposed five changes to the enhanced availability of information. These include:
• Requiring all facilities to provide certain basic information to the public through easily accessible means such as a facility Web site or at public libraries or government offices;
• Requiring a subset of facilities, upon request, to provide the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) with summaries related to: compliance, emergency response exercises, accident history and investigation reports, and any ISTs implemented at the facility;
• Requiring all facilities to hold a public meeting for the local community within a specified timeframe after an RMP reportable accident;
• Proposing revisions to clarify or simplify the RMP submission; and
• Proposing technical corrections to various provisions of the rule.
EPA Seeking Guidance
In addition to the proposed changes in the NPRM, the EPA is also looking for public input on additional changes to the RMP that might be included in future rulemaking. For the accident prevention program, the EPA is looking for information on additional requirements for:
• Location of stationary sources (related to their proximity to public receptors); or
• Emergency shutdown systems
The EPA is soliciting public feedback on the NPRM. Comments may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal (www.Regulations.gov; Docket # EPA-HQ-OEM-2015-072). Comments should be received by May 13th, 2016.
The EPA is currently planning one public hearing to allow personnel to provide oral comments about the NPRM. The hearing will be held on March 29th, 2016 in Washington, DC. Advanced registration for a chance to speak at the hearing is strongly suggested. You are supposed to be able to register on-line here, but the site is not set up as of the time I’m writing this post (3-12-16 9:00 pm CST). I suspect that it will be set up sometime on Monday.
While I have not had a chance to complete a detailed review of the extensive NPRM, it seems clear even at the broad overview provided here that no one is going to be fully satisfied with what the NPRM proposes or ignores. In general I think that that should be the mark of any good regulation, but we will have to wait and see if that is the specific case here.
The topic of inherently safer technology provides a good case in point. Environmental and many safety advocates have long pushed for the EPA to require RMP facilities to implement IST improvements to their chemical processes. While there is not a consensus definition of what an IST improvement would be, the more vocal advocates press for a replacement of toxic chemicals with safer alternatives where ever possible, while more moderate advocates would replace the ‘where ever possible’ with ‘where practical’.
Industry, on the other hand, maintains that it already has conducted IST analysis as part of their standard engineering practices and that the decision to implement a specific IST improvement is a risk-management decision that is only able to be made by facility owners and engineers based upon their unique knowledge of the process.
At first glance it looks like the EPA in this NPRM has taken a middle road or requiring companies to formally document their IST analysis process. Business will most likely complain that this is bureaucratic make-work that will cost money without providing any safety improvement. The safety and environmental activists will certainly agree that the study provision will not provide any safety improvement; that such improvements can only come with mandatory IST implementation. It will take a detailed look at the IST process outlined in this NPRM (I’ll be doing this in some later blog post) to determine which is more nearly correct about their assessment.
As usual, readers of this blog can expect that I will be taking more detailed looks at the actual language of the proposed changes in a series of future blog posts. Two things that I can tell you at this point: first, I expect that multiple parties will petition for a longer comment period (90 days instead of 60); second, I expect that there will also be multiple requests for regional public hearings. I really expect that both requests will be honored.