EPA issued a pre-publication draft of a Final Rule on Dec. 21, 2016 amending the existing Risk Management Planning Rule (“RMP”) at 40 CFR Part 68 (promulgated under the authority of Section 112 of the Clean Air Act Amendments). The new rule changes the accident prevention program requirements of RMP, enhances emergency response requirements and alters public availability to chemical hazard information. Because EPA’s enforcement of RMP escalated in the past several years, and is closely aligned with OSHA’s Process Safety Management (“PSM”) standard, the regulated community is well-advised to be mindful of the new obligations created by this Final Rule.

1. Accident Prevention Program Revisions

Three changes were made by EPA to the accident prevention program of the Rule:

  • All facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes must conduct a root cause analysis as part of any incident investigation of any catastrophic release, or of any incident that could have reasonably resulted in a catastrophic release;
  • All facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes must contract with an independent third-party, or assemble an audit team led by an independent third-party, to perform a compliance audit after the facility has an RMP reportable accident; and
  • All Program 3 facilities in NAICS codes 322 (paper manufacturing), 324 (petroleum and coke products manufacturing), and 325 (chemical manufacturing) must conduct a safer technology and alternatives analysis (STAA), and to evaluate the practicability of any inherently safer technology (IST) identified as part of the process hazard analysis (PHA), as updated every five years.

2. Emergency Response Enhancements

  • All facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes must coordinate with local emergency response agencies at least once per year to determine how the facility is addressed in the community emergency response plan, and to ensure that local response organizations are informed of the type and quantity of regulated substances, risks and capabilities of the facility to respond to a release.
  • All facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes must conduct annual notification exercises to ensure the accuracy of the emergency contact information. In addition, facilities subject to subpart E of the Rule (“responding facilities”) must conduct field and tabletop exercises on a frequency determined in consultation with local emergency response officials, but at a minimum once every ten years for full field exercises, and once every three years for tabletop exercises.

3. Enhanced Availability of Information to the Public

The Rule requires facilities to make information available to the public, upon request, and to provide basic information to the public through a company website or social media on an ongoing basis. The Rule also requires companies to hold a public meeting within 90 days of an RMP reportable accident.

The Final Rule will be published in the Federal Register.