While numerous chemical plants operate safely, in the past 10 years nearly 60 people died and almost 500,000 people were evacuated or sheltered in place following accidental releases at chemical plants, EPA Assistant Secretary Mathy Stanislaus wrote Feb. 29, 2016.

EPA Updates Risk Management Program Rule

The new EPA revisions came about because a working group of federal agency representatives assembled to implement the executive order identified modernizing the RMP rule as one of the top priorities to improve U.S. chemical facilities' safety and security.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed an update to the agency's Risk Management Program rule in response to President Obama's Executive Order 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security. Both EPA and OSHA committed to take regulatory and other actions in response to that order, which itself was a response to the devastating ammonium nitrate fertilizer explosion in West, Texas.

The new EPA revisions, soon to be published in the Federal Register, came about because a working group of federal agency representatives assembled to implement the executive order identified modernizing the RMP rule as one of the top priorities to improve U.S. chemical facilities' safety and security, Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER), reminded in a Feb. 25 blog post.

(OSWER is responsible for EPA's cleanup and emergency response program.)

He explained that the proposed rule was developed with input from nearly 1,800 stakeholders -- community leaders, first responders, local and state governments, industry, and many others; the working group reviewed existing programs, recommendations from the safety and security communities, stakeholders' feedback, and investigative reports from major incidents.

These amendments are included in it, he wrote:

  • Requiring consideration of safer technologies and alternatives by including the assessment of Inherently Safer Technologies and Designs in the Process Hazard Assessment.
  • Requiring third-party audits and root cause analysis to identify process safety improvements for preventing accidents
  • Enhancing emergency planning and preparedness requirements to ensure coordination between facilities and local communities
  • Ensuring emergency response capabilities are available to mitigate the effects of a chemical accident
  • Improving the ability of local emergency planning committees and local emergency response officials to be better prepared for emergencies
  • Increasing public access to information to help the public understand the risks at facilities covered by the RMP rule and increasing community involvement in accident planning for when communities need to evacuate or shelter in place during an incident

"This proposal is a step in the right direction," Stanislaus wrote. "We want to build on the success of leaders in the chemical industry by enhancing their operations to prevent accidents, and we want to make sure that communities are fully prepared for a chemical plant accident, so that first responders, workers, and neighboring community members are protected."

For more information about the proposal, visit http://www.epa.gov/rmp/proposed-changes-risk-management-program-rmp-rule.

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