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PT Notes

EPA RFI - Compliance with Emergency Response Program 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 compliance with emergency response program requirements in coordination with local responders. The RMP rule offers two emergency response options to owners and operators of RMP-covered facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes. For facilities whose employees will respond to accidental releases of regulated substances, an emergency response program must be implemented. These "responding" facilities are also required to coordinate their emergency plan with local response authorities. For facilities whose employees will not respond to releases, compliance with the requirements for an emergency response plan is not required provided that the source is included in the community emergency response plan (for sources with regulated toxic substances) or the source has coordinated response actions with the local fire department (for sources with only regulated flammable substances), and that appropriate notification mechanisms are in place to notify emergency responders when there is a need for a response.

EPA has found that the majority of RMP facilities claim to be "non-responding" facilities. However, during facility inspections, EPA has often found that facilities are either not included in the community emergency plan or have not properly coordinated response actions with local authorities. This problem occurs with both responding and non-responding facilities, but it is particularly troublesome for non-responding facilities, because if the facility itself does not maintain the capability to respond to emergencies, and local authorities are not able to respond, then a proper response to an accidental release at the facility may not occur or may be delayed significantly.

EPA is requesting comment on whether this problem could be addressed through better enforcement of existing requirements, and, if so, how best to do so. EPA is considering whether the emergency response provisions in the RMP regulation should be revised to state more explicitly that owners and operators of RMP-regulated facilities must comply with the emergency response program requirements unless local public responders both have the means and agree to respond to releases of regulated substances at the facility, and to describe what facility owners or operators must do to coordinate with local authorities on the development of community emergency response plans.

Questions posed by EPA on this issue include:

  1. Do you own or operate an RMP-regulated facility that relies on public authorities to respond to accidental releases of regulated substances at the facility? What steps do you take to ensure that public responders are prepared to respond properly to accidental releases at your facility? Should EPA clarify what steps RMP facilities should take in order to coordinate their emergency response plan properly with the community emergency response plan?
  2. If your facility uses its own employees or response contractors provided by the facility to respond to emergencies, what factors led to your decision to use your own employees or contractors to conduct emergency response operations? What steps have you taken to coordinate with local responders on emergency response planning?
  3. Are you a member of an LEPC, municipal fire department or municipal hazardous materials response team? If so, do you believe that "non-responding" RMP facilities in your jurisdiction generally have provided the appropriate information and support to your organization to ensure an appropriate response to hazardous substance emergencies at those facilities? Is your organization capable of responding appropriately to such events at RMP facilities? How often do you visit RMP facilities in your jurisdiction? Do you conduct emergency drills at RMP facilities? Do you believe that RMP facilities generally should respond to emergencies using their own employees, or rely on public responders? Should EPA clarify what is necessary for RMP facilities to adequately coordinate their emergency response plan with the community emergency response plan? Would new regulations in this area significantly improve emergency response planning in your area?
  4. Are there certain substances or types of facilities that present particular response challenges for local authorities? If so, which substances or types of facilities? Should such facilities be required to prepare and implement comprehensive emergency response programs instead of relying primarily on public responders? Do public responders in your area have adequate existing authority to require this now?
  5. If public responders are not capable of responding to a particular type of chemical or release event at an RMP-regulated facility, should the owner or operator of the facility be required to provide for an effective response, either with the facility's own employees, response contractors, a mutual aid agreement with nearby facilities, or some other means?
  6. What would be the economic impacts of expanding the emergency response requirements as discussed above? Are there any special circumstances involving small entities that EPA should consider with respect to modifying emergency response requirements?

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

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