ACC Calls on EPA to Change Course on Problematic RMP Proposal
WASHINGTON (October 31, 2022) — In written comments submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding its proposed changes to the Risk Management Program (RMP) rule, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) expressed concern that the Agency’s proposal discards an already successful approach for enhancing safety to impose questionable regulatory mandates.
Summarizing ACC’s comments, Dr. Kimberly Wise White, vice president of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs explains the main problem with EPA’s proposal.
“We are very concerned EPA has abandoned a collaborative and data-driven process and is proposing unnecessary changes that will not improve safety,” said Wise White. “The agency has not provided sufficient evidence to justify its proposed mandates, nor has it provided adequate time to review a wide range of complex issues.”
“ACC and its members are proud to be part of an industry that puts safety at the core of its operations and that has worked cooperatively with EPA to protect the safety of workers and communities,” she continued. “We urge EPA to address the concerns detailed in our comments and focus on proposing changes that will result in demonstrable safety benefits.”
What is EPA Overlooking?
The current RMP rule requires facilities to assess the potential impacts of chemical incidents and to maintain comprehensive accident prevention and emergency response programs. Those requirements include sharing information with local officials and emergency responders as well as addressing a wide range of potential safety risks, including natural hazards.
ACC’s comments point out that this approach has helped drive down chemical related incidents by nearly 75% according to EPA data. Further analysis shows that nearly three-quarters of regulated facilities have no accident history. These figures suggest that targeted enforcement of existing regulations could substantially reduce the number of incidents instead of imposing sweeping new requirements.
What are the Biggest Problems?
While there are certain aspects of the proposed rule that ACC supports – notably the approach to root cause analysis - there are several significant areas of concern that standout.
First, ACC is concerned that the proposed rule removes important safeguards put in place after the 9/11 attacks to prevent the misuse of security sensitive information. EPA has not shown that its proposal would improve upon the safety information that companies already share with government regulatory agencies, law enforcement, and local emergency planners. Instead of enhancing safety, EPA’s proposal could pose a national security threat by creating opportunities for someone to use information to target a facility or disrupt responses to emergencies.
Secondly, ACC believes the agency’s proposal to impose a Safer Technology and Alternative Assessment (STAA) requirement is unwarranted and unduly burdensome. Over more than two decades of regulatory history, EPA has been unable to demonstrate the benefits of adding a STAA requirement to RMP. In fact, EPA recently examined two states that require companies to conduct a STAA and found that accident rates in these states did not improve more than RMP facilities nationwide. Furthermore, the agency has not sufficiently considered the regulatory burden of the STAA requirement on small businesses and the added costs on products throughout the value chain.
Lastly, EPA has not provided adequate evidence to support expanding requirements for assessing natural hazards. According to the agency’s accident database, EPA’s proposed natural hazard approach would have factored into only two percent of RMP incidents reported at chemical plants over the past seven years. By comparison, these same sites attributed 35% of RMP-reportable incidents to “human error” and 33% to “Equipment Failure” over the same period.