On March 14, 2016, EPA proposed to amend the Risk Management Program (“RMP”) under Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act, indicating its intent to improve safety at facilities where hazardous chemicals are used and distributed. These revisions come in response to recent incidents at chemical facilities, particularly a deadly 2013 explosion that occurred at a Texas fertilizer facility, and a resulting Executive Order (“EO”) issued by President Barack Obama on August 1, 2013, requiring EPA to expand the RMP to address additional hazards.

EPA’s proposed amendments to its RMP regulations include the following: (1) revisions to the accident prevention program, (2) emergency response enhancements, and (3) information availability enhancements.

For the accident prevention program, EPA’s action proposes three primary changes. First, the proposed rule would require certain facilities to do the following:

  • Conduct root cause analyses as part of catastrophic release (and near-miss catastrophic release) incident investigations;
  • Have independent third-parties perform compliance audits after a reportable release; and
  • Require facilities to conduct safer technology and alternatives analyses as part of their Process Hazard Analyses.

The most significant emergency response enhancement that the proposed rule includes is a requirement for certain facilities to conduct full field exercises at least once every five years and annual tabletop exercises during the other years.

The proposed rule would also provide for enhanced information availability. It would require all facilities to provide certain basic chemical hazard information to the public through a website or other easily available means. Additionally, the proposed rule would require certain facilities to, when requested, provide local emergency response authorities with summaries of information regarding compliance audits, emergency response activities, and inherently safer technology implementation.

Comments on the proposed rule are due on May 13, 2016. The proposal can be accessed here.