Over the past few decades, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Risk Management Plan (RMP) rule has been a success, preventing chemical accidents and improving preparedness, environmental stewardship, and community partnerships. The National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) has long shared the EPA’s goals for this well-intentioned rule, but recently proposed changes by the agency to the current RMP pose numerous concerns for our industry.
First and foremost, it is critical to understand that RMP as currently implemented, is a success story. In its proposed rule on May 30, 2018, the EPA stated, “The agency acknowledges that the continual decrease in accidental releases under the existing RMP rule is evidence that the existing rule is working. Since the original 1996 rules took effect, EPA data shows the number of RMP incidents has decreased by up to 75 percent, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC). An analysis of EPA data by the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) shows that, for a span of 10 years, only 8 percent of RMP-regulated facilities were responsible for all reportable incidents. However, the EPA is now seeking to update the 2019 rule and impose complex new requirements that will create more regulatory burden and regulatory confusion while increasing costs for the chemical industry and other covered businesses, likely without appreciable gains.
In comments submitted last year to the EPA, NACD shared its view that the agency should not expand RMP regulations for those already in compliance. Rather, the EPA should dedicate its efforts to ensuring all chemical facilities have a full understanding of their safety and security regulatory obligations and the tools necessary to fulfill this commitment and fully enforce the regulations currently in effect.
As businesses across the nation are still navigating numerous economic challenges due to inflation, rising interest rates, labor shortages, and ongoing supply chain challenges, NACD and others in the chemical industry like manufacturers represented by ACC and the specialty chemical manufacturers represented by SOCMA are concerned about the potential impacts of the new proposed RMP rules.
SOCMA strongly supported the effective 2019 RMP because it eliminated harmful provisions like safer technologies and alternative analysis (STAA) and third-party audit requirements and lessened the negative impacts of the information disclosure requirements. Unfortunately, the latest proposed rule reintroduces those issues of concern and proposes additional problematic measures on fence line monitoring.
Much like NACD, many of SOCMA’s members are small businesses. But it’s not just small businesses that will feel the impact of the proposed changes to this rule. ACC too has expressed concerns over the new rule, particularly regarding the safeguarding of sensitive hazardous information, requirements affecting individual facilities’ hazard assessments, and imposing the Inherently Safer Technology (IST) Mandate.
For ACC’s members, these new requirements threaten to “impose a scattershot approach of complex, unnecessary regulatory mandates.” ACC reiterated these concerns during a recent public listening session and urged the EPA to align policy with RMP performance data, rather than adding more requirements to a rule that has been successful in protecting the environment and communities for decades.
As the EPA considers the effectiveness of RMP and potential changes to the program, NACD and our partners in the $5.2 trillion chemical industry urge the agency to continue working with stakeholders to rely on a data-driven process and to avoid imposing changes that make it harder for businesses already in compliance to continue responsibly handling covered materials while doing nothing to address the small percentage of businesses who are responsible for the vast majority of RMP incidents.
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