After More than Six Long Years, EPA Scheduled to Finalize the Risk Management Program (RMP) Accidental Release Prevention Requirements
As most recently reported in our 2021 forecast, major revisions to the Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations have been batted around since early 2017 when, as one of the final actions of the Obama Administration, EPA proposed major revisions to the program. The RMP Rule implements Section 112(r) of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments and requires facilities that use extremely hazardous substances to develop a Risk Management Plan to prevent accidental release to the adjacent community. Two administrations and over six years since the 2017 amendments to the rule, EPA is planning to issue a final rulemaking on significant revisions to the RMP Rule that appear slated to become final in August 2023.
On January 13, 2017, the EPA published a final RMP Rule (2017 Amendments) to prevent and mitigate the effect of accidental releases of hazardous chemicals from facilities that use, manufacture, and store them. The 2017 Amendments were a result of Executive Order 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, which directed EPA (and several other federal agencies) to modernize policies, regulations, and standards to enhance safety and security in chemical facilities. The 2017 Amendments contained various new provisions applicable to RMP-regulated facilities addressing prevention program elements, emergency coordination with local responders, and information availability to the public. On December 19, 2019, EPA promulgated a final RMP rule (2019 Revisions) that repealed several major provisions of the 2017 Amendments and retained other provisions with modifications. Upon taking office in January 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 13990, Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis (EO 13990), which directed federal agencies to review existing regulations and take action to address priorities established by the new administration including bolstering resilience to the impact of climate change and prioritizing environmental justice.
As an outgrowth of its review efforts under EO 13990, EPA is expected to publish an update to the RMP Rule later this year that will include many of the elements from the 2017 Amendment, as well as new provisions that are intended to bolster the existing program and provide additional safeguards. Some of the proposed requirements include identifying safer technologies and chemical alternatives, more thorough incident investigations, and third-party auditing, all of which EPA purports would benefit nearby communities. In addition, the final rulemaking is expected to require regulated facilities to consider natural hazards (including those that result from climate change) and loss of power among the hazards that must be addressed in the RMP.