ACC urges EPA to modify RMP rule

ACC urges EPA to modify RMP rule

This new rule could restrict the availability of chemicals that are essential to making semiconductors, producing clean energy and building electric vehicles

  • By ICN Bureau | March 02, 2024

In response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) newly published Risk Management Program (RMP) rule, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) expressed concern that the Agency is discarding its successful approach for enhancing chemical facility safety. The new rule adds to a surge in misguided regulations that undermine the ability of chemical manufacturers to create essential products here in the U.S. and support the broader economy.

“ACC members proudly put safety at the core of our operations through the Responsible Care® Process Safety Code. As members of the communities where we operate, we have an obligation to advance safety and prevent incidents. And we’re committed to working with EPA to protect workers and communities through important programs such as RMP.” said Dr. Kimberly Wise White, Vice President of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs.

"We are very concerned EPA has decided to abandon a collaborative and data-driven process which has helped decrease chemical related incidents by nearly 80% since RMP was adopted. Instead, the Agency has decided to remove important regulatory safeguards and impose unworkable mandates that could jeopardize the safety of facilities that provide vital contributions to critical sectors, including food production, water purification and energy production."

Major Problems

While there are certain aspects of the final rule that ACC supports – most notably, the Agency’s approach to root cause analysis of process safety incidents – ACC has several significant concerns:

Ignores Risks to National Security

The final rule requires companies to broadly share detailed information about specific chemical hazards at their facilities, removing important safeguards put in place after the 9/11 attacks. This requirement could pose a national security threat by creating opportunities for bad actors to use sensitive information to target a facility or disrupt responses to emergencies. We do not believe EPA has adequately addressed these serious concerns or identified sufficient public benefit to the increased disclosure requirements.

Not Evidence-based

The EPA did not follow its own data generated under RMP showing that a small percentage of regulated facilities reported incidents. If it had done so, changes to the program would have focused on improving safety performance rather than creating sweeping new requirements for the facilities that have not had an incident. The Agency’s decision to impose a Safer Technology and Alternative Assessment (STAA) requirement is unwarranted and unduly burdensome. Furthermore, the agency has ignored concerns raised by the Small Business Administration regarding the negative impacts on small businesses and the added costs on products throughout the value chain.

Significant Cost Increases

The Agency has vastly expanded the estimated financial burden of the final rule, more than tripling the anticipated costs for implementation. This is due in large part to the new requirements related to the STAA analysis, which makes up more than 80% of the cost of the final rule. Such a significant increase deserves careful review and consideration by the public to better understand the Agency’s rationale for including the requirements, along with the cost and time burden estimates that were used to generate these figures.

Insufficient Review

Since the 2022 proposed rule and after the comment period had closed, the Agency has vastly expanded the scope of the rule, adding a requirement not only to conduct a STAA analysis, but also conduct a separate practicability assessment in some cases and implement at least one passive measure. Despite EPA’s general request for feedback, the public should have had more opportunity to comment on these major changes before the rule became final, especially given the extreme cost of this provision.

Broad Impacts

In addition to safety and security issues, the new rule has the potential to hinder supply chains and undercut the country’s ability to advance national priorities. By pressuring manufacturing facilities to abandon proven processes and technologies, this new rule could restrict the availability of chemicals that are essential to making semiconductors, producing clean energy and building electric vehicles.

“The agency has not provided sufficient evidence to justify these new requirements, nor has it adopted a more targeted approach to further enhance safety as suggested by ACC and other stakeholders,” White said. “Unfortunately, EPA has doubled down on its flawed approach, vastly expanding the scope of questionable new requirements. We urge EPA to withdraw its rule and focus on building on the success of the current program. This flawed rule is yet another example of why the White House needs to create an Interagency Policy Committee (IPC) to help improve the process for developing regulations.”

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