The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced proposed changes to the Risk Management Program (RMP) rule this month that aim to add protections from chemical accidents for communities located near RMP facilities.
Dubbed the “Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention Rule,” the proposed rule would create new safeguards that were absent in earlier version of RMP rules, including measures to increase transparency on safety decisions for communities and employee participation.
“Protecting public health is central to EPA's mission, particularly as we adapt to the challenges of climate change, and the proposal announced today advances this effort, especially for those in vulnerable communities,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a release. “This rule will better protect communities from chemical accidents, and advance environmental justice for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by these facilities.”
The RMP rule requires industrial facilities with high accident rates to prevent accidental air releases of dangerous chemicals that could lead to death, injuries, evacuations or damage to property or the environment. Under the new proposed rule, some facilities will have additional responsibilities to prevent chemical accidents.
Changes to the existing rule include providing greater protections for communities living near RMP facilities; emphasizing the requirement for regulated facilities to evaluate risks of natural hazards and climate change; promoting environmental justice through increased availability of information for fenceline communities; requiring safer technologies and alternatives analysis for certain facilities with high accident rates; advancing employee participation and opportunity in decision making on facility accident prevention requirements; and enhancing facility planning and preparedness efforts. Facilities with a bad track record of accidents will be required to conduct third party audits.
EPA intends to engage with stakeholders involved in rulemaking during a public commenting period. The agency will hold three virtual public hearings on the proposed rule on September 26, 27, and 28.