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Risk Management Plan (RMP) Changes: Next Steps

October 19, 2015 - Kestrel Management

After President Obama issued Executive Order (EO) 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, the USEPA stepped up to the challenge to prevent chemical accidents by issuing a Request for Information (RFI) on 19 priority modifications to include in a proposed Risk Management Plan (RMP) rule.

Industry has had some time to absorb the July 2014 RFI, and now the USEPA is moving onto the next step in its rulemaking process—conducting Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) panels to seek input on the potential impacts of the proposed RMP rule on small entities. The Agency remains committed to proposing priority amendments to RMP in 2015 and publishing a final rule in 2016.

So what, exactly, is on the table for RMP?

RMP Background

Let’s take a look at the basics of RMP before getting into the modifications.

The RMP rule implements Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act Amendments. RMP is aimed at preventing accidental chemical releases and reducing the severity of releases. RMP applies to all stationary sources with processes that contain more than a threshold quantity (TQ) of a regulated substance (based on toxicity, volatility, and flammability criteria). These sources must comply with the RMP regulations by taking defined steps to prevent accidents and by preparing and submitting an RMP to USEPA at least every five years.

USEPA’s RMP program is very similar to OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) program, which is undergoing its own updates (see related article). They share a number of the same prevention requirements and applicability criteria. The major fundamental difference is that RMP focuses on protecting public health and the environment from chemical accidents, while PSM’s focus is on protecting workers. Together, these rules form the framework for preventing catastrophic chemical accidents in the U.S.

RMP Regulatory Actions

The modifications that USEPA has presented in its RFI—and that will soon be reviewed by through the SBAR panels—are intended to further reduce the likelihood of accidental releases of toxic and flammable substances at chemical facilities, and improve emergency response when those releases occur.

First and foremost, the RFI asks whether the current list of 140 regulated chemicals should be updated (i.e., adding some, removing some, lowering/raising the TQ), and devotes considerable attention to explosives like ammonium nitrate and other reactive substances.

In addition to updating the list of regulated substances, the USEPA identifies several topics in its RFI that overlap with OSHA’s PSM RFI and a number specific to RMP. Some of the most notable changes include those outlined in the table below.

RMP_changesAdditional proposed RMP requirements include the following:

  • Define and require evaluation of updates to applicable recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices (RAGAGEP)
  • Extend mechanical integrity requirements to cover any safety-critical equipment
  • Manage organizational changes
  • Install/use automated detection and monitoring for releases of regulated substances
  • Implement additional stationary source location requirements
  • Follow worst-case release scenario quantity requirements for processes involving numerous small vessels stored together
  • Determine TQs and off-site consequence analysis endpoints for regulated substances based on acute exposure guideline level toxicity values
  • Employ “safety case” regulatory model
  • Mandate stop work authority
  • Disclose chemical names and quantities to the public via company websites

Things to Consider

Whether you are a small business participating on an SBAR panel or a large company impacted by RMP rules, the USEPA outlines a number of issues to consider as the proposed rulemaking goes forward:

  • How might the potential modifications presented in the RFI impact your business? Are there other relevant alternatives?
  • Will there be sufficient availability of independent third parties to conduct compliance audits?
  • How should the USEPA define a near miss that requires an incident investigation and root cause analysis?
  • What is the proper scope of safer technologies/alternatives analyses and feasibility studies?
  • What impacts will be realized from improved coordination with local responders?
  • What is the proper frequency and scope of exercises?
  • What information is appropriate to share to improve emergency coordination with local responders and the community?

The RMP proposed rule is coming—now is the time to consider the implications, voice concerns, and prepare facilities for inevitable changes.

Submitted by: Sarah Burton

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