UPDATED: On March 13, 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt postponed implementation of the changes to the RMP rule and extended the effective date for the rule changes by 90 days -- to June 19, 2017. Stay abreast of all RMP developments on the EPA site.

In the waning days of the Obama administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule amending its risk management program (RMP) regulations to reduce the likelihood of accidental releases at chemical facilities and improve emergency response activities when those releases occur. The Trump administration has delayed action on these rules twice, first announcing in an updated FAQ published on February 6, 2017, the final rule was to become effective on March 14, 2017. On March 13, 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt postponed implementation of the changes to the RMP rule and extended the effective date for the rule changes by 90 days -- to June 19, 2017.

Among the changes, first announced on December 21, 2016, the final rule:

  • Increases coordination with local emergency planning committees (LEPCs) to enhance local emergency preparedness and response planning. It requires facilities to conduct annual coordination with LEPCs or local emergency response officials to clarify response needs, emergency plans, roles and responsibilities. EPA requires qualifying facility owners or operators request an opportunity to meet with the local emergency planning committee (or equivalent) and/or local fire department, but is not requiring a meeting to be held if local authorities determine that a meeting is not required.
  • Requires qualifying facility owners or operators to consult with local emergency response official to establish appropriate frequencies and plans for tabletop and field exercises. The rule also requires qualifying facilities to perform notification exercises and to perform tabletop and field exercises with the LEPCs.
  • Modifies previously established requirements for an emergency response plan provision such that requires the plan now must include procedures for informing the public and local emergency response agencies about accidental releases, to also require these procedures to inform appropriate federal and state emergency response agencies about accidental releases.
  • Requires facilities to provide certain, existing chemical information to the public upon request.
  • Requires all facilities to hold a public meeting for the local community within 90 days of an RMP reportable accident.
  • Requires additional reporting elements to investigations that are required after any incident that resulted in or could reasonably have resulted in a catastrophic release.
  • Requires an independent third-party to conduct a compliance audit at a facility if there has been a reportable accident, or if an implementing agency determines that a third-party audit is necessary.

The amendments are intended to:

  • Prevent catastrophic accidents by improving accident prevention program requirements.
  • Enhance emergency preparedness to ensure coordination between facilities and local communities.
  • Improve information access to help the public understand the risks at RMP facilities.
  • Improve third-party audits at RMP facilities.

The accidental release prevention regulations under Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) – also known as the EPA RMP regulations – require covered facilities to develop and implement a risk management program. EPA shares RMP information with state and local officials to help them plan for and prevent chemical accidents and releases.

“This rule is based on extensive engagement with nearly 1,800 people over the last two and a half years,” said Mathy Stanislaus, EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Land and Emergency Management. “These changes are intended to protect the lives of emergency responders and the public, while preserving information security.”

This rule is the latest in a series of actions the federal government has taken to improve chemical process safety, assist local emergency authorities in responding to accidents and improve public awareness of chemical hazards at regulated sources. It will help prevent chemical accidents and their devastating effects. More than 1,500 accidents were reported by RMP facilities in the last 10 years. These accidents were responsible for causing nearly 60 deaths and approximately 17,000 injuries.

Click here for more information about the final amendments to the RMP rule.

This story has been updated to reflect changing regulatory action.