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PT Notes

Amendments to EPA's RMP Rule - Information Availability

PT Notes is a series of topical technical notes on process safety provided periodically by Primatech for your benefit. Please feel free to provide feedback.

EPA has proposed several amendments relating to the RMP rule. This PT Note addresses additional regulatory requirements for the availability of information to the public. EPA is proposing:

  • Allowing the public to request specific chemical hazard information if they reside within a 6-mile radius of an RMP facility.

Further details are provided below.

EPA is proposing the following requirements for making chemical hazard information available to the public:

The owner or operator of a stationary source shall provide, upon request by any member of the public residing within 6 miles of the stationary source, the following chemical hazard information for all regulated processes in the language requested, as applicable

  1. Names of regulated substances held in a process.

  2. Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for all regulated substances located at the facility.

  3. The five-year accident history information required to be reported under the RMP rule.

  4. The following summary information concerning the stationary source's compliance with certain risk management plan provisions and the emergency response provisions of the RMP rule, as applicable:
    1. Whether the stationary source is a responding stationary source or a non- responding stationary source.

    2. Name and phone number of local emergency response organizations with which the owner or operator last coordinated emergency response efforts.

    3. For responding stationary sources, procedures for informing the public and local emergency response agencies about accidental releases.

  5. A list of scheduled emergency response exercises required under the RMP rule.

  6. LEPC contact information including the LEPC name, phone number, and web address, as available.

Also, the owner or operator must provide ongoing notification on a company website, social media platforms, or through other publicly accessible means that:

  1. The specified information is available to the public residing within 6 miles of the stationary source upon request. The notification shall:
    1. Specify the information elements that can be requested.

    2. Provide instructions for how to request the information (e.g., email, mailing address, and/or telephone or website request).

  2. Identify where to access information on community preparedness, if available, including shelter-in-place and evacuation procedures.

The owner or operator must provide the requested information within 45 days of receiving a request.

EPA believes that public disclosure of risk management plan information would likely lead to a reduction in the number and severity of accidents. EPA also believes that comparisons between facilities, processes and industries would likely lead industry to make changes and would stimulate dialogue among facilities, the public, and local officials to reduce chemical accident risks. EPA has concluded that, given the opportunity, the public would use hazard information to take action, thus leading to risk reduction, citing as an example the reduction in emissions following the public availability of Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) information.

The proposed 6-mile limitation seeks to limit the potential security risk of allowing anonymous confidential access of information by the entire public. EPA believes the proposed approach strikes a balance between security concerns and the interests of people living near facilities who could benefit from the information. These benefits include personal preparedness in the event of an accident, knowledge of safety conditions where one lives, and more informed participation in community safety planning.

EPA believes the 6-mile distance is reasonable as 90 percent of all toxic worst-case distances to endpoints are 6 miles or less, and almost all flammable worst-case distances are less than 1 mile. EPA notes that the 6-mile radius for being able to request information from facilities allows people in most areas potentially impacted by a worst-case scenario to have access to information while also providing a limit on widespread access to nationwide assembly of data. The proposed approach uses aggregate worst-case scenario data and does not rely on individual worst cases for each facility because EPA cannot by rule force disclosure of offsite consequences analysis (OCA) information to the public. EPA notes that 5 percent of worst-case distances for toxics are more than10 miles, while 67 percent of scenarios are under 3 miles.

EPA states that the 6-mile restriction would allow access to information for the vast majority of the public that are within worst-case scenario impact zones. EPA notes that by creating a 6-mile radius, communities with more than one facility can request information on all the sources to which they may be potentially exposed in the event of a release. Also, EPA notes that allowing all community members demonstrating residence within 6 miles of the facility to request this information would ensure information availability in areas without LEPCs / TEPCs.

EPA believes that the requirement of a 6-mile radius ensures that even if community members obtain information related to OCA data, it would require a difficult nationwide-coordinated effort among people within 6 miles of each facility to create an online database that would be of use to terrorists and criminals.

EPA states that, while much, if not all, of the information to be disclosed upon request to facilities under the proposed provision is otherwise publicly available with little geographic limitation, the additional method of access EPA is proposing makes access simpler for people who are near facilities.

RMP Access Policy Changes

While these proposed regulatory changes will improve information sharing within communities, they do not resolve EPA’s concern that fenceline communities are often unaware of RMP facilities near them. To request facility information, a member of the public would need to know how to access it, have the means to access it, and know that the facility exists in their community in order to determine how to access and request the information. EPA believes these barriers do not appropriately facilitate community right-to-know or equitable distribution of knowledge on fenceline community risks to those most affected by potential releases.

Additionally, EPA believes that information on multiple RMP facilities is needed as it allows communities to compare risks between facilities, as well as potential cumulative risks owing to multiple facilities within a community. EPA states that, for communities with large numbers of facilities, residents should not be expected to request information from each of these facilities, but rather, EPA should aggregate this information in a central location. EPA also believes that current means of providing access to risk management plans, such as via Federal Government reading rooms and LEPCs, are not realistic avenues for public access to information.

At a prospective date, EPA intends to begin publishing, in a readily accessible manner, non-offsite consequence analysis (OCA) risk management plan data annually, less any protected, sensitive information under the Clean Air Act (CAA).

Currently, with few exceptions, EPA does not make any of its OCA or non-OCA data available to the public online. EPA contends that current, publicly available information on the risk management plan national database is insufficient for informing communities about RMP-regulated facilities. EPA hopes that making non-OCA risk management plan data publicly available will reduce the need for the public to access risk management plan data only through Federal reading rooms.

EPA notes that the Agency already protects OCA information as required by the CAA and will ensure that expansion of access to risk management plan data does not violate the CAA. EPA acknowledges that the Agency must consider whether some non-OCA data elements, or combinations of elements, may not be suitable for public release and should be restricted based on potential security risks.

EPA is soliciting comments on the proposed amendments and has posed questions regarding them.

If you would like further information, please click here.

To comment on this PT Note, click here.

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