Prior to the close of the Obama administration and after much anticipation, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) issued its final rule overhauling the Risk Management Plan (“RMP”) facility chemical accident prevention program, the EPA counterpart to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s Process Safety Management program. The new rule strengthens requirements for facilities to reduce risks of accidents, enhance emergency preparedness requirements, and ensure that first responders and the public have information to prepare for and respond to accidents in their communities. The rule is largely the same as the proposed version issued in March, requiring facilities to conduct third-party analyses after incidents and near-misses, coordinate with local authorities, and conduct safer alternatives analyses. In response to industry criticism, EPA has walked back several provisions, dropping the requirement to share information on chemical hazards with local emergency planning committees and removing the requirement that facilities make some information available on public websites or at libraries.
However, EPA’s efforts may prove fruitless due to the expected push of the incoming Trump administration and Republican lawmakers to block or kill the rule. The hastened timeline for development of the rule has also created doubt about whether EPA has adequately assessed the rule’s costs and benefits. The rule will not take effect for 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register; therefore, President Trump could order the Federal Register not to publish it. Additionally, under the Congressional Review Act the legislative branch could officially reject the final RMP, thereby blocking a future administration from developing a “substantially similar” rule.