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EPA Finalizes Risk Management Program Reconsideration Rule Aiding First Responders, Reducing Unnecessary Burdens

With today’s action the Agency projects EPA has saved more than $5 billion in regulatory costs under President Trump

11/21/2019
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WASHINGTON (Nov. 21, 2019) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Risk Management Program (RMP) Reconsideration final rule, which modifies and improves the existing rule to remove burdensome, costly, unnecessary amendments while maintaining appropriate protections and ensuring first responders have access to all of the necessary safety information. This rule also resolves important security concerns. With this action, under President Trump, EPA has finalized 48 deregulatory actions, which the agency projects have saved Americans more than $5 billion in regulatory costs.

“Under the Trump Administration, EPA is listening to our first responders and homeland security experts. Today’s final action addresses emergency responders’ longstanding concerns and maintains important public safety measures while saving Americans roughly $88 million per year,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Accident prevention is a top priority of the EPA and this rule promotes improved coordination between chemical facilities and emergency responders, reduces unnecessary regulatory burdens, and addresses security risks associated with previous amendments to the RMP rule.”

“The National Association of SARA Title III Program Officials (NASTTPO) represents members and staff of State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs), Tribal Emergency Response Commissions (TERCs), Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs), various federal agencies, and private industry. Our membership is pleased with the Trump Administration and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s finalized changes to the 2017 RMP rule, specifically with respect to its provisions impacting emergency planning and response. This includes final modifications to overly complex exercise requirements that placed resources burdens on LEPCs without recognizing these arbitrary requirements provided little or no benefit to community emergency preparedness or accident prevention,” said NASTTPO Past-President and Board Member Tim Gablehouse. “We also appreciate that the final rule maintains critical access for first responders to necessary facility information that will result in improved local emergency response planning and public safety.”

EPA’s final RMP reconsideration rule maintains important public safety measures. Under this final rule, no less safety information will be available to first responders and state and federal regulators than was available under any previous version of the RMP rule. Today’s action directly addresses the concerns of local emergency responders and other federal agencies including the U.S. Small Business Administration that were originally raised during the rulemaking of the 2017 RMP Amendments.

The revisions in this rule, based on a careful analysis of over a decade of data, are designed to drive effective emergency planning and continue to support the long-term trend of fewer significant chemical accidents – a trend that has continued since the original rule was finalized in 1996. The rule: reduces unnecessary and ineffective regulatory burdens on facilities and emergency responders (many of whom in rural areas are volunteers); harmonizes rather than conflicts with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Process Safety Management standard; and saves Americans roughly $88 million a year.

During interagency review of the proposed RMP Amendments, which included the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and U.S. Department of Justice, among other agencies, EPA received a comment warning that the open-ended information disclosure provisions to allow anonymous access to sensitive chemical facility hazard information “could assist terrorists in selecting targets and/or increase the severity of an attack.” These security concerns were reiterated during the interagency review of the proposed RMP Reconsideration rule last year. Today’s final rule ensures that appropriate protections for this type of information are in place.

From 2007-2016, at least 90% of RMP facilities had no reported accidents and nearly half of accidents occurred at less than 2% of facilities reporting multiple releases. EPA is focusing on high-risk facilities and vigorously enforcing the original RMP rule. Today’s final rule maintains important public safety requirements without imposing substantial new regulatory requirements on all facilities in the RMP program. EPA believes this approach will effectively address the very small percentage of facilities that need increased supervision to improve their performance. In fact, accident rates in states that had adopted burdensome elements in the RMP Amendments rule show less decline in accident rates than RMP facilities nationwide under the original rule. Thus, there was little data supporting the claimed benefits of the RMP Amendments. Ultimately, this rule reduces the costs of compliance with unnecessary regulatory requirements and makes reasonable, practicable updates to improve the effectiveness of the rule.

“The Obama Administration not only subjected facilities to even more burdensome, duplicative, and needless regulation; but it also made all of us more vulnerable to security threats. Instead of making facilities safer and more secure, the Obama Administration seemed intent on making unnecessary and redundant regulation enacted only for regulation’s sake. Fortunately, President Trump has taken action to protect both public safety and jobs. President Trump’s revisions account for better coordination and communication which will ultimately prevent accidents, save lives, and protect property,” said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.  

“It is encouraging to see the agency has agreed to reconsider a rule that would impose repetitive requirements on local and state officials as well as raise serious public safety concerns,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.  

“I am grateful to the EPA for making the changes necessary to get the Risk Management Plan rule back in line with public safety and a proper balance of power between state and federal authorities. These revisions to the Obama-administrations’ last-minute rule will make Texans safer, ease the burden on state and local governments, and restore some common sense to the regulatory process. By listening to the state and local experts who have pointed out the national security and public safety risks of publishing sensitive information about refineries, chemical plants, manufacturing facilities, and agricultural operations, the Trump Administration has shown its dedication to putting the rule of law and the safety of Americans first,” sad Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.  

“Today’s action in updating the RMP Rule is critical to protecting the public and striking a balance to require transparency while avoiding providing a roadmap for those who would occasion harm to the public. The State of Oklahoma commends Administrator Wheeler for listening to emergency responders and security experts to create the balance required to best protect the public while safeguarding emergency responders and national security,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Ken Wagner. 

“The RMP rule traded safety for paperwork and delivered far more burden than benefit for businesses that had to abide by it. It wrapped our businesses up in more bureaucratic red tape and made it more difficult for them to keep their doors open, risking not only safety but also valuable jobs. Last Congress, I was proud to lead a joint resolution that provided much needed relief by rolling back the Obama Administration rule and I applaud the Trump Administration and Administrator Wheeler for finalizing the new, conservative and pro-business rule today,” said U.S. Representative Markwayne Mullin (OK-02). 

This final rule is a perfect example of the administration cleaning up inefficient, bureaucratic processes while still maintaining workplace security. I’m grateful for EPA’s dedication on this issue, and look forward to working with them further to improve safety measures, said U.S. Representative Bruce Westerman (AR-04).  

These changes maintain information sharing with local law enforcement while reducing unnecessary requirements and compliance costs from the previous Obama-era regulation. The revised rule also addresses security flaws that unintentionally left chemical facilities vulnerable to bad actors and potential terrorist threats. This is an important revision. I’m grateful that President Trump and his administration have taken action to correct the rule,” said U.S. Representative Clay Higgins (LA-03). 

“Today’s announcement ensures safety remains a top concern while simultaneously returning control to our local communities, reducing duplicative and over burdensome regulations, and maintaining national security protections for RMP facilities across Missouri,” said U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler (MO-04). “I am pleased to hear the Trump Administration has followed through on promises made to save taxpayer dollars while ensuring commonsense, streamlined measures drive our federal agencies.”

“The Obama-era Risk Management Program rule has been in need of revision for years,” said U.S. Representative Glenn Grothman (WI-06). “Before this revision, anybody, including people who wish to harm our country, had access to the location of hazardous chemicals throughout the country. This revised rule will bolster the safety of these facilities by withholding these details, while retaining first responders’ access to this and other safety information. These changes are another example of President Trump’s commitment to rolling back burdensome regulations with smart solutions. This revised rule not only creates less paperwork for businesses, but prioritizes the safety of workers, communities and first responders.”

“(These changes) will help the Calcasieu Parish LEPC coordinate with our stationary facilities in our Parish. We discussed the new rules at our last LEPC meeting this past Tuesday, November 19. RMP compliance is one of our goals for next year. The change will help us to collect emergency contacts, conduct drills, review plans and incidents. We presently have an incident review process for facilities that is voluntary. The changes would encourage facilities to participate in our review process,” said Calcasieu Parish Local Emergency Planning Committee Chairman Mason G. Lindsay.

For more information on the proposed RMP Reconsideration Rule, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/rmp/proposed-risk-management-program-rmp-reconsideration-rule.

Background

The Clean Air Act mandates that EPA require Risk Management Plans for facilities storing specific chemicals above threshold amounts and develop risk management programs to prevent and mitigate accidents that could release those chemicals into the environment.

EPA published its first Risk Management Plan regulation in 1996. In 2017, EPA finalized a new regulation mandating new requirements and disclosure of additional public information. Following the finalization of this rule, EPA received and granted three petitions to reconsider the 2017 RMP regulations, including a petition from 11 states: Louisiana, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

Currently, EPA regulates approximately 12,500 RMP facilities throughout the country such as agricultural supply distributors, water and wastewater treatment facilities, chemical manufacturers and distributors, food and beverage manufacturers, chemical warehouses, oil refineries, and other chemical facilities.

For history about the RMP Amendments Rule, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/rmp/final-amendments-risk-management-program-rmp-rule.