On May 10, 2024, extensive revisions recently adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations (40 CFR Part 68) will take effect. The revisions, dubbed by EPA as the “Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention Rule,” reinstate certain Obama-era provisions previously rolled back under the Trump administration. However, the revisions also enlarge some of these provisions and add significant new requirements, including some that reflect the current administration’s focus on climate change and environmental justice.

The revisions require owners and operators of subject facilities to achieve compliance with most of the substantive requirements within three years (i.e., by May 10, 2027). RMP plans must be updated to reflect new applicable requirements and resubmitted to EPA within four years (i.e., by May 10, 2028). For certain other requirements (regarding emergency response field exercises), the compliance deadline is potentially shorter or longer than these three- and four-year periods, depending on the date of the facility’s most recent field exercise.

Once the rule takes effect, court challenges by both business interests and environmental groups are expected. However, given the unknown outcome of such challenges and the breadth and potential costs of the new requirements, potentially impacted facilities should begin assessing the applicability of the revisions now.

Background

The RMP regulations implement Section 112(r) of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments (42 U.S.C. 7412(r)), which direct EPA to develop regulations to improve the prevention of chemical accidents at stationary facilities or activities (for brevity, referred to here simply as “facilities”) that use or store “regulated substances” that EPA has identified as presenting the greatest risk of harm from accidental releases. In particular, the owner and operator of a facility with one or more “processes” that manufactures, uses, stores, or handles such a regulated substance in excess of substance-specific threshold quantities must develop and implement a risk management program for all such processes, and document that program in a risk management plan submitted to EPA.

RMP requirements are generally similar to, and in some respects will overlap with, requirements under the Process Safety Management (PSM) program administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). However, while OSHA’s PSM regulations focus on workplace safety, the RMP regulations focus primarily on minimizing the public impacts of accidental releases through prevention and emergency response.Continue Reading EPA Turns Up the Pressure on Chemical Release Prevention and Preparation

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