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PT Notes

EPA RFI - Additional Stationary Source Location (Facility Siting) Requirements

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On July 24, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a Request for Information (RFI) seeking comments on potential revisions to its Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations and related programs to modernize its regulations. Multiple issues were addressed in the RFI.

One of the issues addresses additional requirements for locating stationary sources. EPA is considering whether to amend the RMP rule to provide more specific requirements to address stationary source siting. The RFI mentions several accidents in which stationary source siting has been identified as an issue, including the Bhopal, BP Texas City, and West Fertilizer accidents.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Process Safety Management (PSM) standard and EPA's RMP rule both require that facility siting be addressed as one element of a process hazard analysis (PHA). The RFI notes that EPA has not provided any guidance on how to address stationary source siting adequately in PHA and that RMP facility owner/operators can refer to industry guidance on siting considerations from the American Petroleum Institute and the Center for Chemical Process Safety.

Both the siting of processes within a stationary source and the siting of the stationary source itself can affect the impact of an accidental release. Siting within a stationary source can impact the surrounding community not only by the proximity of the accidental release to off-site receptors adjacent to the facility boundary (e.g. people, infrastructure, environmental resources) but also by increasing the likelihood of a secondary "knock-on" release through compromising nearby processes.

Siting of a stationary source itself may allow the potential impact of an accidental release to dissipate depending on the distance from the source to receptors. The RFI notes that facility designers have long recognized the potential benefits of adding buffer or safety zones - controlled areas separating the public and other facilities from the consequences of process incidents – when selecting the location for new chemical facilities.

EPA is asking in the RFI if the RMP rule should be amended to include more specific siting requirements as part of the PHA by, for example, establishing buffer or setback zone requirements for new covered stationary sources, or by establishing safety criteria for siting of occupancies inside the facility? EPA is seeking information on whether such requirements would provide significant incremental protection over current industry practices?

Questions posed by EPA on this issue include:

  1. Would additional specifics on stationary source siting and occupancy siting under the RMP minimize the impacts of chemical accidents to local communities? How should RMP stationary source siting requirements relate to OSHA PSM and other industry standards?
  2. What guidance should EPA consider in the development of stationary source siting requirements?
  3. What information should EPA consider in the development of stationary source buffer or setback zones for different risks? How should EPA address siting when limited space is available?
  4. What administrative processes and controls should be incorporated into stationary source siting requirements?
  5. What safety and process devices, instruments and controls should be incorporated into stationary source siting requirements?
  6. What criteria are appropriate for siting of occupancies (such as offices, control rooms, cafeterias, etc.) near an RMP-regulated process?
  7. How often should stationary source siting be evaluated for effectiveness? What criteria should be used? What documentation should be required for evaluating stationary source siting determinations?
  8. Is it appropriate to reflect the environmental burden of the surrounding community in siting criteria for either new facilities or expansions within an existing site? Is it appropriate to consider chronic burdens or only burdens associated with accidental releases?
  9. What challenges would the agency face in specifying uniform siting requirements for the wide variety of covered sites? What site-specific factors would need to be addressed?
  10. If EPA mandated siting criteria, how should EPA account for local zoning codes when establishing such criteria? Would setting federal requirements overstep into the normal state and local zoning process, or would it act as a supplemental measure ensuring minimal safety standards across the country?
  11. What would be the economic impacts of specifying additional siting requirements? Are there any special circumstances involving small entities that EPA should consider with respect to siting requirements?

Further details on this issue are provided in EPA's RFI which can be accessed by clicking here.

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