New Regulations Aim to Protect Communities from Chemical Accidents

In August, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed revisions to the Risk Management Program rule, with the aim of further protecting vulnerable communities from chemical accidents. This rule has been titled the “Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention Rule.”

What Does the RMP Rule Do?

The EPA’s RMP rule protects public health and the environment by requiring industrial facilities with high rates of chemical accidents to prevent accidental air releases of dangerous chemicals that could cause deaths, injuries, property and environmental damage, or require evacuations in communities surrounding the facilities.

“This rule will better protect communities from chemical accidents, and advance environmental justice for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by these facilities,” said EPA administrator Michael S. Regan. The rule is an important component in the broader scope of the EPA’s mission to advance environmental justice – especially because problem facilities are often located in communities that have historically been affected by pollution more than others.

What Are Some Highlights of the Rule?

Some of the highlights of the EPA’s proposal include:

  • Promoting environmental justice through increased access to information for communities (in their requested language)
  • Emphasizing the need for regulated facilities to evaluate the risks of natural hazards and climate change
  • Providing better projections for communities living near these facilities, many of which are underserved and disproportionately affected by pollution
  • Requiring third-party audits for facilities with poor track records and high rates of accidents
  • Enhancing facility planning and preparedness efforts

What’s the History of RMP?

The EPA published its first RMP regulation all the way back in 1996. In January of 2017, the RMP Amendments Final Rule issued new requirements for prevention, response, and public disclosure of information – however, key provisions were paused and ended up never taking effect. Then, in 2019, the RMP Reconsideration Final Rule rescinded or modified some of the 2017 rule measures.

Today, the EPA regulates some 12,000 RMP facilities across the United States – those facilities include water and wastewater treatment facilities, chemical manufacturers, food and beverage manufacturers, oil refineries, agricultural supply distributors, and more.

Learn more about the recently proposed RMP rule here.

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