Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other

Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other


EPA says new rule will protect chemical facilities and communities

In 2019, an explosion and fire at the TPC Group in Port Neches, TX, resulted in the largest number of evacuees in history (50,000 people), as well as $153 million in offsite property damage. Photo: Chemical Safety Board

Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency is aiming to “improve safety at facilities that use and distribute hazardous chemicals,” as well as protect nearby communities, via a final rule.

Announced March 1, the Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention rule would revise the agency’s Risk Management Program in an effort to lower the frequency of chemical releases.

Provisions of the rule include:

  • Requiring an analysis of safer technologies and chemical alternatives, and in some cases mandating implementation of reliable safeguard measures for facilities in industry sectors with high incident rates.
  • Advancing worker participation and training, as well as decision-making opportunities, in facility incident prevention.
  • Requiring third-party compliance audits and root cause analysis incident investigation for facilities that have experienced incidents.
  • Ensuring chemical-release information is shared with local responders in a timely fashion.
  • Implementing a community notification system to warn of impending chemical releases.
  • Increasing transparency by offering nearby communities access to RMP facility information.

“Many communities that are vulnerable to chemical accidents are in overburdened and underserved areas of the country,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a press release. “This final rule is a critical piece of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to advancing environmental justice by putting in place stronger safety requirements for industrial facilities and new measures to protect communities from them.”

The American Chemistry Council, which represents manufacturers, claims the final rule compromises safety. In a press release, ACC says the rulemaking hasn’t been subject to sufficient review after the final rule featured notable expansion from the 2022 proposal.

In a separate release, Will Hupman, vice president of downstream policy at the American Petroleum Institute, said America “has seen significant performance improvements across workplaces under the existing Risk Management Program regulations.” He claims EPA “has failed to demonstrate a need for its rigid approach in this new rule, which could have adverse impacts to workers and consumers alike by undermining ongoing safety improvements, impacting energy production and diminishing the ability of U.S. refineries to compete in global markets.”

Environmental watchdog group Earthjustice supports the new rule. “While there is certainly more that must be done to prevent chemical disasters, EPA’s rule is a major step forward for ensuring that the most hazardous facilities implement safer technologies and provide greater public access to information,” Earthjustice attorney Kathleen Riley said in a press release.

The rule is set to go into effect May 10.

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Original article published by Safety+Health an NSC publication