What You Need to Know About the EPA’s Sweeping Changes to the RMP Rule

Get your compliance team ready. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is pushing ahead with plans to strengthen its chemical safety rules. The rule changes were prompted by an executive order that President Obama issued in the wake of the 2013 fertilizer facility explosion in West, Texas, which killed 15 people.

On March 14th, 2016, the EPA published the proposed amendments to the Risk Management Program (RMP) Rule in the Federal Register. The West, Texas, tragedy was seen as proof by the agency that more needed to done to enforce prevention of chemical-related accidents. Over the past 10 years, according to the EPA, facilities subject to the RMP Rule have reported more than 1,500 accidents that resulted in 60 deaths, 17,000 injuries, and $2 billion in property damage.

The proposed changes emphasize improvements in accident prevention, emergency response, and community awareness within and in the vicinity of facilities that hold large quantities of hazardous substances. The major revisions fall into these three areas:

  • Additional accident prevention program requirements
  • Increased emergency preparedness requirements
  • Mandatory public availability of chemical hazard information

What is the Risk Management Program?

The RMP Rule, which is codified in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 68 (40 CFR 68), establishes accident prevention requirements for facilities that use, store, or handle certain hazardous substances. The approximately 12,000 U.S. facilities that are subject to the rule must submit a facility-specific risk management program that contains the following information:

  • Hazard assessment that provides a five-year accident history, prediction of the worst-case scenario accidental chemical release or physical accident, and the expected effects of any potential incident.
  • Accident prevention program
  • Emergency response program

RMPs must be updated and resubmitted to the EPA every five years.

Is My Facility Required to Submit an RMP?

A facility-specific RMP must be prepared and submitted if the facility stores a “regulated substance” in quantities at or greater than the listed threshold quantity. The list of regulated toxic substances and threshold quantities can be found here. Chemicals that commonly trip RMP requirements include ammonia, chlorine, and acids, such as hydrochloric acid. Threshold quantities range from 500 to 20,000 pounds. Facility managers should compare their chemical inventories to the list of regulated substances to determine RMP rule applicability.

What Will Change?

The proposed amendments include changes to accident prevention, emergency preparedness, and public availability of chemical hazard information portions of the RMP Rule. The changes are summarized in each section below:

Accident Prevention Program

EPA’s proposal includes the following three major changes to the accident prevention program requirements:

  1. Facilities with Program 2 or Program 3 processes must conduct a root cause analysis after a reportable incident or near miss.
  2. Facilities with Program 2 or Program 3 processes must have an independent third-party perform a compliance audit after a reportable incident occurs.
  3. Facilities with Program 3 processes under NAICS codes 322 (paper manufacturing), 324 (petroleum and coal products manufacturing), and 325 (chemical manufacturing) must conduct a safer technology alternatives assessment (STAA) as part of their process hazard analyses (PHAs). PHAs must be updated every five years.

Emergency Response

Under the proposed amendments, the following items would be added to the emergency response requirements of the RMP Rule:

  1. Facilities with Program 2 or Program 3 processes must annually coordinate with local emergency responders.
  2. In order to test for inaccuracies, facilities with Program 2 or Program 3 processes must conduct notification exercises at least once per year.
  3. Facilities with Program 2 or Program 3 processes that respond to incidents, a.k.a. responding facilities, must conduct a full-field exercise once every five years and a tabletop exercise annually. In addition, responding facilities with a reportable incident must conduct a full field exercise within one year of the accident.

Public Availability of Information

Revisions to the public availability of chemical hazard information portions of the RMP rule would require facilities to provide the public with basic information on the facility’s potential hazards through easily accessible means, such as a company website.

Next Steps

The EPA will issue its final amendments to the RMP rule after reviewing the thousands of comments it received during the 60-day comment period.

The changes will affect all facilities that hold regulated substances above the threshold quantities. Facility managers must be aware of the new requirements during the development of new RMPs and compliance activities associated with their current RMPs. Once enacted, failure to comply with the new regulations will result in violations and fines. In addition, proper accident prevention and response procedures minimize the potential for loss of life, injury, property damage, and any related aftermath.

NOTES: Program 1, 2, and 3 Processes Explained

The RMP separates chemical processes at each facility into three categories or Programs (1, 2, or 3). Program determination is based on factors including time since last incident, proximity to the public, and intensity of potential hazard created by the process. The following table summarizes how a processes’ program is determined:

RMP Rule – Program Determination Summary

Program 1 Processes:

A process is considered Program 1 if it meets ALL of the following requirements:

·       Zero incidents that resulted in death, injury, emergency response, or environmental restoration within the last five years

·       The worst-case release would not reach any public receptor (determined using risk assessment modeling)

·       Emergency response procedures have been coordinated between the process owner or operator and local response organizations

Program 2 Processes:

A process is considered Program 2 if cannot be considered a Program 1 or Program 3 process.

Program 3 Processes:

A process is considered Program 3 if it does not meet the requirements of Program 1 above, and if EITHER of the following conditions are met:

·       The process is classified under one of the following NAICS Codes: 32211, 32411, 32511, 325180, 325194, 325199, 325211, 325311, or 32532

·       The process is subject to the OSHA process safety management standard codified in 29 CFR 1910.119.

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