EPA Proposes Changes to Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act

By May 23, 2016 No Comments

Excerpts from the executive summary of the Risk Management Programs proposed rule:, April 21, 2016

The proposed revisions include several changes to the accident prevention program requirements including an additional analysis of safer technology and alternatives for the process hazard analysis for some Program 3 processes, third-party audits and incident investigation root cause analysis for Program 2 and Program 3 processes, enhancements to the emergency preparedness requirements, increased public availability of chemical hazard information, and several other changes to certain regulatory definitions and data elements submitted in risk management plans. These proposed amendments seek to improve chemical process safety at facilities that use and distribute hazardous chemicals, assist local emergency authorities in planning for and responding to accidents, and improve public awareness of chemical hazards at regulated sources.

In response to catastrophic chemical facility incidents in the United States, President Obama issued Executive Order 13650, “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security,” on August 1,2013. Section 6(a)(i) of Executive Order 13650 requires that various Federal agencies develop options for improved chemical facility safety and security that identify “improvements to existing risk management practices through agency programs, private sector initiatives, government guidance, outreach, standards, and regulations.” One agency program presently in existence is the Risk Management Program implemented by EPA under section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7412(r)). Section 6(c) of Executive Order 13650 requires the Administrator of EPA to review the chemical hazards covered by the Risk Management Program and expand, implement and enforce the Risk Management Program to address any additional hazards.

Summary of the Major Provisions of the Regulatory Action

This action proposes to amend EPA’s Risk Management Program regulations at 40 CFR part 68. These regulations apply to stationary sources (also referred to as “facilities”) that hold specific “regulated substances” in excess of threshold quantities. These facilities are required to assess their potential release impacts, undertake steps to prevent releases, plan for emergency response to releases, and summarize this information in a risk management plan (RMP) submitted to EPA. The release prevention steps vary depending on the type of process, but progressively gain specificity and rigor over three program levels (i.e., Program 1, Program 2, and Program 3).

The major provisions of this proposed rule include several changes to the accident prevention program requirements, as well as enhancements to the emergency response requirements, and improvements to the public availability of chemical hazard information. Certain proposed provisions would apply to a subset of the processes based on program levels described in 40 CFR part 68 (or in one case, to a subset of processes within a program level).

Accident Prevention Program Revisions

This action proposes three changes to the accident prevention program requirements. First, the proposed rule would require all facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes to conduct a root cause analysis as part of an incident investigation of a catastrophic release or an incident that could have reasonably resulted in a catastrophic release (i.e., a near-miss). This provision is intended to reduce the number of chemical accidents by requiring facilities to identify the underlying causes of an incident so that they may be addressed. Identifying the root causes, rather than isolating and correcting solely the immediate cause of the incident, will help prevent similar incidents at other locations, and will yield the maximum benefit or lessons learned from the incident investigation.

Second, the proposed rule would require regulated facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes to contract with an independent third-party to perform a compliance audit after the facility has a reportable release. Compliance audits are required under the existing rule, but are allowed to be self-audits (i.e., performed by the owner or operator of the regulated facility). This provision is intended to reduce the risk of future accidents by requiring an objective auditing process to determine whether the owner or operator of the facility is effectively complying with the accident prevention procedures and practices required under 40 CFR part 68.

The third proposed revision to the prevention program would add an element to the process hazard analysis (PHA), which is updated every five years. Specifically, owners or operators of facilities with Program 3 regulated processes in North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) codes 322 (paper manufacturing), 324 (petroleum and coal products manufacturing), and 325 (chemical manufacturing) would be required to conduct a safer technology and alternatives analysis (STAA) as part of their PHA, and to evaluate the feasibility of any inherently safer technology (IST) identified. The current PHA requirements include consideration of active, passive, and procedural measures to control hazards. The proposed modernization effort continues to support the analysis of those measures and adds consideration of IST alternatives. The proposed provision is intended to reduce the risk of serious accidental releases by requiring facilities in these sectors to conduct a careful examination of potentially safer technology and designs that they could implement in lieu of, or in addition to, their current technologies. Data compiled from RMPs suggest processes in these NAICS codes have a disproportionate share of reportable releases.

At this time, EPA is not proposing any additional requirements either for location of stationary sources (related to their proximity to public receptors) or emergency shutdown systems. However, EPA seeks comment on whether such requirements should be considered for future rulemakings, including the scope of such requirements, or whether the Agency should publish guidance.

Emergency Response Enhancements

This action also proposes to enhance the rule’s emergency response requirements. Owners or operators of all facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes would be required to coordinate with the local emergency response agencies at least once a year to ensure that resources and capabilities are in place to respond to an accidental release of a regulated substance. As a result of improved coordination between facility owners and operators and local emergency response officials, EPA believes that some facilities that are currently designated as non-responding facilities may become responding facilities (i.e., develop an emergency response program in accordance with § 68.95).

Additionally, all facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes would be required to conduct notification exercises annually to ensure that their emergency contact information is accurate and complete. This provision is intended to reduce the impact of accidents by ensuring that appropriate mechanisms and processes are in place to notify local responders when an accident occurs. One of the factors that can contribute to the severity of chemical accidents is a lack of effective coordination between a facility and local emergency responders.

This action also proposes to require that all facilities subject to the emergency response program requirements of subpart E of the rule (or “responding facilities”) conduct a full field exercise at least once every five years and one tabletop exercise annually in the other years. Responding facilities that have an RMP reportable accident would also have to conduct a full field exercise within a year of the accident. The purpose of this provision is to reduce the impact of accidents by ensuring that emergency response personnel understand their roles in the event of an incident, that local responders are familiar with the hazards at a facility, and that the emergency response plan is up-to-date. Improved coordination with emergency response personnel will better prepare responders to respond effectively to an incident and take steps to notify the community of appropriate actions, such as shelter-in-place or evacuation.

Enhanced Availability of Information

This action proposes various enhancements to the public availability of chemical hazard information. The proposed rule would require all facilities to provide certain basic information to the public through easily accessible means such as a facility Web site. If no Web site exists, the owner or operator may provide the information at public libraries or government offices, or use other means appropriate for particular locations and facilities. In addition, a subset of facilities would be required, upon request, to provide the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), Tribal Emergency Planning Committee (TEPC) 2 or other local emergency response agencies with summaries related to: Their activities on compliance audits (facilities with Program 2 and Program 3 processes); emergency response exercises (facilities with Program 2 and Program 3 processes); accident history and investigation reports (all facilities that have had RMP reportable accidents); and any ISTs implemented at the facility (a subset of Program 3 processes). The proposed rule would also require all facilities to hold a public meeting for the local community within a specified timeframe after an RMP reportable accident.

In addition to the major provisions described previously in this section, this action proposes revisions to clarify or simplify the RMP submission. These changes are intended to reduce the compliance burden on facilities and increase their understanding of the RMP requirements. We are also proposing technical corrections to various provisions of the rule.

To view the proposed rule and for more information go here.

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