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EPA Sued by 15 State Attorneys General Over RMP Changes

January 29, 2020

5 Min Read
EPA Sued by 15 State Attorneys General Over RMP Changes

15 state attorneys general and the City of Philadelphia filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday for “gutting” the Obama-era Chemical Disaster Rule amendments to Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations, the coalition’s leader, New York Attorney General Letitia James, announced in a release. 

“The Trump EPA is gutting critical safeguards against explosions, fires, poisonous gas releases, and other accidents at these facilities, putting New Yorkers in harm’s way,” Attorney General James said in a statement. “I am taking this fight to the courts, because every New Yorker deserves to live in a safe and healthy environment.”

The agency removed the Chemical Disaster Rule from the RMP regulations in a final rule published in November 2019, stating that eliminating the additional regulations was intended to get rid of “burdensome, costly, unnecessary” amendments and improve security at chemical and petroleum plants. One of the chemical industry’s foremost trade organizations, the American Chemistry Council, issued a statement commending the EPA for the changes to the RMP program.   

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The coalition of 15 attorneys general and the City of Philadelphia contend that the EPA’s changes to the RMP rules will result in more safety risks to communities, noting that several accidents have occurred at RMP-regulated facilities since the final rule was published like the explosions at the TPC Group chemical plant in Texas in late 2019. 

“These changes included the elimination of independent audits conducted by third-parties and ‘root cause’ analyses following accidents, as well as analyses of safer technology and alternatives that could prevent or lessen harms from accidents,” the Attorney General James’ release said. “The EPA is also cutting back on training requirements and requiring facilities to share information with first responders and nearby communities on hazardous chemicals used on site.”

RMP rules were mandated under the Clean Air Act of 1996, requiring facilities that store certain chemicals above threshold amounts to develop plans to prevent and mitigate accidents that could result in a release of chemicals into the environment. In 2017, during the administration of US President Barack Obama, the original RMP rule was changed to include new requirements and disclosures of information about facilities. 

After the 2017 amendments were published, 11 states filed a petition for the EPA to reconsider the rule. According to the agency, the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the US Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies voiced concerns during interagency review of the 2017 amendments that disclosures of information on hazards at chemical facilities could make facilities vulnerable to attack by terrorists. 

The coalition includes attorneys general from the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, as well as the City of Philadelphia. 

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