RMP Final Rule Delayed until February 2019
June 20, 2017 •
On June 12, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a final rule delaying the effective date of the Risk Management Program (RMP) final rule amendments until Feb. 19, 2019. Per the agency, the 20-month delay will allow the EPA’s new leadership to review two industry petitions for reconsideration and a third petition from 11 states, as well as public comments.
ACA submitted comments to EPA last month in support of the agency’s proposed rule to further delay the effective date of the RMP regulation. ACA underscored that during this proposed delay, the existing RMP regulations will remain in place, and noted that the already robust RMP requirements have resulted in a steady decline in reportable accidental releases over the past 20 years. From 2004 to 2013, EPA data show that there were roughly 12,500 facilities subject to RMP. During that 10-year span, 92 percent of these facilities had no RMP reportable accidents. This decline in reportable accidental chemical releases is expected to continue under the existing RMP regulations.
In general, EPA’s RMP program applies to all stationary sources with processes that contain more than a threshold of a regulated substance. The program’s elements are intended to prevent accidental releases and reduce the severity of releases that occur. All sources must prepare and submit an RMP to EPA at least every five years. In addition, RMP Program 3 facilities involve processes subject to OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) Standard or are in one of the specified NAICS codes, such as chemical manufacturing. Together, PSM and RMP form the regulatory framework for prevention of catastrophic chemical accidents at fixed facilities. Several ACA companies have facilities subject to RMP requirements, particularly Program 3 facilities which have the most stringent requirements. ACA’s main concern with the RMP proposal is that the proposed changes would not actually enhance chemical facility safety, but would instead create significant administrative burdens and higher compliance costs without commensurate benefits in safety.
On March 29, EPA Administrator Pruitt signed a proposed rule to delay the effective date of RMP final rule amendments to Feb.19, 2019. This action followed a series of prior delays issued by the White House and EPA in January and mid-March. In January, the White House issued a memorandum implementing a freeze on federal regulations pending further administrative review. RMP was one of the regulations subject to the regulatory freeze, and the effective date was subsequently delayed until March 21, 2017. However, on March 16, EPA Administrator Pruitt issued a final rule that provided for a further three-month administrative stay of the effective date until June 19, 2017.
The final RMP rule amendments have encountered extreme resistance since EPA first issued them in mid-January. EPA stated that the amendments made to the final rule were aimed at modernizing RMP by (1) making changes to the accident prevention program requirements, (2) enhancing the emergency response and preparedness requirements, and (3) modifying the information availability requirements. However, numerous industry members and trade associations have continued to push back against implementation of these amendments.
ACA believes that the RMP amendments do not appear to enhance chemical safety. Rather, they seem to create and impose significant administrative burdens and high compliance costs without commensurate benefits in safety. ACA maintains that the amendments also lack a sufficient cost-benefit analysis in some new, major provisions. For example, the costs of the third-party compliance audits and the safer technology and alternatives analysis (STAA) outweigh the benefits that they may have in safety to the public or the environment. In addition, ACA asserts that the RMP final rule amendments raise national security concerns because of the mandate on companies to provide sensitive chemical and operational information to the public upon request.
In March, ACA and 20 other trade associations signed onto a coalition petition to Congressional leaders urging them to utilize the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block implementation of the final RMP amendments rule. ACA and the other trade associations maintained that the final RMP rule not only imposes significant new costs without identifying or quantifying the safety benefits that will be achieved through these new requirements; but that it may compromise the security of facilities, emergency responders, and communities. Moreover, ACA and the other trade associations underscored that the current RMP regulations are not in need of revision because they include requirements that have produced and will continue to drive continuous safety improvements and already provide robust protection for our employees and the public.
Because of this coalition effort, Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-OK-2) introduced H.J.Res.59 on Feb. 1, that would allow RMP to be overturned in Congress if the CRA joint resolution of disapproval passes in both the House and Senate. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) is the Senate sponsor of this CRA joint resolution. Industry members and trade associations are continuing their lobbying effort in D.C. to push this joint resolution through Congress.
Contact ACA’s Rhett Cash for more information.