The explosion in West, Texas, prompted President Obama

Should EPA's Risk Management Program Regs List High Explosives?

The agency published a request for information about possible revisions to its RMP regulations on July 31, as required under Executive Order 13650.

Eight months after OSHA asked for comments about potential changes to its Process Safety Management standard and related standards, EPA has followed suit by requesting comments about possible revisions to its Risk Management Program regulations. Both actions were taken in response to President Obama's executive order 13650, which directed the departments of Labor, Homeland Security, and also EPA to work with several other federal agencies on ways to improve chemical facilities' safety and security. The April 2013 explosion of ammonium nitrate at a fertilizer facility in West, Texas, prompted the executive order.

EPA's request for information was published July 31. The deadline for comments is Oct. 29, 2014.

"Chemical safety and security are a shared commitment among government, industry, public interest groups and communities," said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. "We are reaching out to all these partners to ask for their suggestions and comments to help us improve the Risk Management Program, and in turn improve safety and security of chemical facilities."

EPA noted that its request for information "closely coordinates with the potential changes to OSHA’s PSM program for accident prevention measures." It addresses potentially updating the list of RMP regulated substances and adjusting threshold quantities and toxic endpoints based on Acute Exposure Guideline Level (AEGL) toxicity values. EPA is seeking comments on using inherently safer technology, process safety metrics, automated monitoring of releases, emergency drills, stop work authority, and addressing facility siting risks.

Among the key questions is whether EPA should reconsider listing explosives on the RMP list. EPA listed high explosives on the RMP list in 1994 but removed them on Jan. 6, 1998, in a settlement of litigation with the Institute of Makers of Explosions, which had challenged the listing, claiming that MSHA, OSHA, and ATF already regulated them sufficiently.

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