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PT Notes

EPA RMP Rule Amendments - Availability of Information to the Public

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This PT Note describes amendments to EPA's Risk Management Program (RMP) regulation relating to the availability of information to the public.

Various enhancements have been made to the public availability of chemical hazard information. The amended rule requires all facilities to provide certain basic information to the public, upon request. Also, the owner or operator of the facility must provide ongoing notification of the availability of information elements on a company website, social media platforms, or through some other publicly accessible means.

The amended rule also requires all facilities to hold a public meeting for the local community within 90 days of an RMP-reportable accident. EPA believes that this provision will ensure that first responders and members of the community have easier access to appropriate facility chemical hazard information, which can significantly improve emergency preparedness and their understanding of how the facility is addressing potential risks.

EPA is requiring the owner or operator of a stationary source to share information that is relevant to emergency response planning as part of the coordination activities that occur annually between facility representatives and local emergency response agencies.

The amended rule requires an owner or operator of a stationary source to alert the public, via any one of a wide variety of methods, on how to access information about the source that is publicly available. Other statutes and regulatory programs, or other provisions of the risk management program, require the stationary source to assemble the information that the rule would make available upon request (e.g., accident history, safety data sheets, and aspects of the emergency response program). EPA believes that the burden of making this information directly available from the source is minimal and that the public’s ability to participate in emergency planning and readiness is materially advanced by being better informed about accident history, types of chemicals present, and how to interact with the stationary source. EPA stated that it has been selective in identifying what information a source must make available. EPA believes that having the source provide information directly to the public promotes accident prevention by facilitating public participation at the local level.

Availability of Information to the Public

RMP Availability

  • The Risk Management Plan must be available to the public.

Chemical Hazard Information

  • The owner or operator of a stationary source must provide, upon request by any member of the public, the following chemical hazard information for all regulated processes, as applicable:
    • Regulated substances information. Names of regulated substances held in a process.
    • Safety data sheets (SDS). SDSs for all regulated substances located at the facility.
    • Accident history information. The five-year accident history information required to be reported under the current rule.
    • Emergency response program. The following summary information concerning the stationary source’s compliance with emergency response requirements:
      • Whether the stationary source is a responding stationary source or a non-responding stationary source.
      • Name and phone number of local emergency response organizations with which the owner or operator last coordinated emergency response efforts.
      • For stationary sources subject to requirements for an emergency response program, procedures for informing the public and local emergency response agencies about accidental releases.
    • Exercises. A list of scheduled exercises required under the amended rule, and
    • LEPC contact information. LEPC name, phone number, and web address as available.

EPA is not requiring that completed STAAs be included in the chemical hazard information, in part because this information is not pertinent to community emergency response planning and also in part because a completed STAA may contain confidential business information or trade secret information which could compromise confidentiality and create security vulnerabilities at the facility.

EPA believes that one benefit of sharing exercise schedules is to avoid unnecessary public alarm when exercises are conducted. However, EPA expects that facility owners and operators will use good security practices when revealing details about upcoming exercises.

Notification of Availability of Information

  • The owner or operator must provide the public with ongoing notification on a company website, social media platforms, or through other publicly accessible means that:
    • Chemical hazard information is available to the public upon request. The notification must:
      • Specify the chemical hazard information elements that can be requested.
      • Provide instructions for how to request the information (e.g. email, mailing address, and/or telephone or website request).
    • Identifies where to access information on community preparedness, if available, including shelter-in-place and evacuation procedures.

EPA believes that providing chemical hazard information to the general public will allow people who live or work near a regulated facility to gather the information they need to improve their awareness of risks to the community and to prepare to protect themselves in the event of an accidental release. EPA believes that this information should be more easily accessible to the public than the present approaches to access information under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act or through Freedom of Information Act requests. However, EPA acknowledges the security concerns involved and has committed to ensuring a balance between making information available to the public and safeguarding that information.

EPA stated that the notification approach provides community members with an opportunity to request chemical hazard information from a facility so they can take measures to protect themselves in the event of an accidental release while allowing facility owners and operators to identify who is requesting the information. EPA worked closely with Federal partners, including the Department of Homeland Security, to develop information availability requirements that strike a balance between security concerns and the need for sharing chemical hazard information with the public. EPA believes that this approach is consistent with existing requirements to secure sensitive information under the Chemical Safety Information, Site Security and Fuels Regulatory Relief Act (CSISSFRRA) and the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). EPA stated its committed to safeguarding Off-Site Consequence Analysis (OCA) information in accordance with requirements specified in CSISSFRRA, which allows for any member of the public to access paper copies of OCA information for a limited number of facilities. This OCA information remains accessible to the public only in Federal Reading Rooms.

EPA believes that the current approach to notify the public that information is available upon request strikes an appropriate balance between various concerns, including information availability, community right-to-know, minimizing facility burden, and minimizing information security risks.

EPA stated that facilities should work with their LEPC and local emergency responders to distribute and convey relevant information on appropriate shelter-in-place and evacuation procedures.

EPA believes that the facility owner or operator can notify the public that information is available in a variety of ways. For example, the owner or operator could make the notification of information availability by using free or low cost internet platforms, file sharing services, and social media tools that are designed to be able to share information with the public. As another option, the facility could post hard copy notices at publicly accessible locations, such as at a public library, or a local government office. If the facility has the means to handle public visitors, it could choose to have notices available at the facility’s public visitor location. The facility also could provide notices that information is available to the public by email.

EPA encourages the facility owner or operator to coordinate information distribution with the LEPC or local emergency response officials to determine the best way to reach public stakeholders in their communities. Facility owners and operators also may want to consider outreach efforts that would allow the public to provide input on the best way to make this notification available. The owner or operator must document whatever method is used and the location of the notification in the Risk Management Plan.

Time Frame to Provide Requested Information

  • The owner or operator must provide the requested chemical hazard information to the public within 45 days of receiving a request from any member of the public.

EPA selected 45 days because that time frame is consistent with the requirement for public provision of facility chemical inventory information (i.e., ‘‘Tier II information’’) under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

Public Meetings

  • The owner or operator of a stationary source must hold a public meeting to provide information required under the five-year accident history as well as other relevant chemical hazard information, such as that specified in the amended rule under the requirements for the availability of information to the public, no later than 90 days after any reportable accident.

The term ‘‘reportable accident’’ refers to accidents required to be reported in the five-year accident history required under the existing rule, which include accidental releases from covered processes that resulted in deaths, injuries, or significant property damage on site, or known offsite deaths, injuries, evacuations, sheltering in place, property damage, or environmental damage. The owner or operator must document in the Risk Management Plan whether a public meeting has been held following an RMP reportable accident.

The amended rule requires public meetings for regulated sources, regardless of program level, if the facility has an RMP-reportable accident. EPA does not view the public meeting requirement as a “one-size fits all” requirement. Sources have flexibility to structure public meetings as appropriate to their circumstances and the needs of the surrounding community.

EPA recommends that facility owners and operators engage in community outreach to determine how best to structure the public meetings. EPA believes that involving the public in advance of the meeting will help to ensure public participation in meetings. EPA considered requiring public meetings only after accidents with offsite impacts but decided to apply the requirement to all RMP-reportable accidents because, even though some RMP-reportable accidents have only on-site impacts, those accidents are often serious enough to raise safety concerns within the surrounding community.

EPA believes that public meetings, particularly when held after an accident, will often provide easier access for community members to appropriate facility chemical hazard information, which can significantly improve the community’s emergency preparedness and understanding of how the facility is addressing potential risks. Also, EPA noted that public meetings provide an opportunity for the public to ask questions or share their concerns with appropriate facility staff and local government officials in attendance.

While EPA is requiring the owner or operator to hold only one public meeting after an RMP-reportable accident, the Agency encourages owners and operators to hold additional meetings, if appropriate, because multiple meetings may help to fully describe the circumstances of an accident.

EPA expects that sources will either have completed incident investigation prior to holding the public meeting, or will have developed sufficient information relevant to community members’ concerns to allow a productive meeting. EPA believes that even if the accident investigation is not complete, a 90-day time frame should allow the owner or operator to share appropriate information about the accident with the local community. The facility could discuss the progress of the investigation so far and next steps planned.

The 90-day time frame is a maximum. EPA encourages facilities to take into consideration when public interest may be highest when scheduling the public meeting noting that attendance may be higher when the meeting takes place very soon after an accident occurs.

EPA recognizes that in some cases, such as for complex, protracted investigations, the facility may need to hold the public meeting prior to completing the incident investigation. In such cases, EPA stated that the owner or operator should consider holding a second public meeting after completing the incident investigation, or sharing information about results of the investigation through another means, such as a website, social media, through the LEPC or local emergency response officials, or distributing information directly to people who attended the public meeting and expressed interest in additional information.

EPA noted that the facility will have the flexibility to structure the public meeting to focus on areas most relevant to a particular accident, considering the interests of the community. EPA also noted that the facility representative should describe the risks that are associated with the facility, and what the facility is doing to protect the public from those risks at the public meeting. In addition, the facility personnel should relay information that would assist the public to prepare for accidental releases.

LEPCs are encouraged by EPA to participate in public meetings, and may collaborate with the owner or operator to host the meeting in conjunction with an LEPC meeting if appropriate. However, LEPCs are not required to co-host or participate in public meetings. EPA believes that it would be extremely useful to have LEPC and local emergency response officials participate in the meeting to discuss the community emergency response plan and explain how the facility is incorporated into that plan. This would provide an opportunity for the facility representative and local officials to discuss the process for public emergency notification procedures, for sheltering in place or evacuating, and where to obtain further updates on the status of an emergency incident. EPA stated that the discussion should also address how the public can access community emergency response plans and identify what the community may expect to see during a field exercise.

EPA believes that small businesses also should host public meetings following an RMP-reportable accident to allow community members an opportunity to talk with facility personnel. EPA encourages small businesses to find ways to reduce costs of public meetings such as by hosting the meetings at inexpensive venues, such as local schools, community centers, or churches.

Classified Information

  • The disclosure of information classified by the Department of Defense or other Federal agencies or contractors of such agencies must be controlled by applicable laws, regulations, or executive orders concerning the release of classified information.

Confidential Business Information (CBI)

  • An owner or operator asserting CBI for information required under the requirements for availability of information to the public must provide a sanitized version to the public. Assertion of claims of CBI and substantiation of CBI claims must be in the same manner as currently required for information contained in the RMP. As provided in the current rule, an owner or operator of a stationary source may not claim five-year accident history information as CBI. An owner or operator of a stationary source asserting that a chemical name is CBI must provide a generic category or class name as a substitute.

EPA noted that by incorporating a CBI provision, EPA is emphasizing the facility owner or operator’s right to protect CBI. EPA also has limited the types of information to be disclosed to eliminate matters likely to contain CBI as well as included information elements for which CBI cannot be claimed (e.g. five-year accident history information and emergency response program information). EPA believes that the current rule clearly identifies what information cannot be claimed as CBI and identifies the procedure for how to protect CBI. Thus, EPA believes that the RMP rule adequately addresses CBI concerns. Furthermore, EPA is not requiring STAA reports to be submitted to LEPCs or the public. Consequently, any concern that CBI contained in these reports is moot insofar as disclosure under the requirements for the availability of information to the public.

If an owner or operator has already claimed CBI for a portion of the RMP, then that claim still applies for the disclosure elements of the information availability provisions of the rule. The owner or operator should provide a sanitized version as described in the RMP*eSubmit User’s Manual. This policy is consistent with existing guidance and practices. EPA noted that more information on CBI is available in Chapter 9 of the General Guidance on Risk Management Programs for Chemical Accident Prevention (40 CFR part 68), March 2009.

The final rule can be found at:

40 CFR Part 68, Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act, Final Rule

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