Guest Column | March 15, 2016

Proposed Changes To The Risk Management Program (RMP) Rule

Sheldon Primus

By Sheldon Primus

The Risk Management Program (RMP) is a law created to protect the greater community from the accidental release of highly hazardous chemicals. Under the Clean Air Act, Section 112(r)(7), there are requirements for the employer to have accident prevention plans for every facet of handling these chemical hazards. The U.S. EPA was commissioned by President Obama under his executive order (EO) 13650 Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security (EO 13650) to:

  • Improve operational coordination with state and local partners;
  • Enhance Federal agency coordination with information sharing;
  • Modernize policies, regulations, and standards; and
  • Work with stakeholders to identify best practices.

This article will review the proposed rule changes and the effect to the utilities which fall under the RMP program.


As mentioned in my May 15, 2014 Water Online article entitled 7 Tips for Risk Management Program Compliance, The Risk Management Program (RMP) is an EPA initiative that tracks, audits, and regulates facilities with extremely hazardous substances (EHSs) and toxic chemicals over a certain quantity, including Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or “Superfund”) sites. Congress enacted the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) in 1986 as a reaction from the 1984 Bhopal, India accident where a Union Carbide chemical plant had a release of methyl isocyanate.

This incident caused thousands to die and many injuries in India, and six months later a chemical release of similar type occurred in West Virginia (EPA, 2012). Therefore, Congress moved under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) by issuing Title 40 to create ways of protecting the American public. The RMP can be found in the Clean Air Programs section (40 CFR Part 68). You can find specific chemicals on “The List of Lists” for regulated chemicals.

However, the RMP system is in need of modernization to represent the growing nature of chemical hazards to the utility and the surrounding communities. Many utilities have gas chlorine, sulfur dioxide, anhydrous ammonia, and other regulated chemicals for the treatment of wastewater and drinking water.

Proposed Changes

The EPA has sought out help through a tri-agency effort of The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), EPA, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Stakeholders from over 25 states and nearly 1,800 participants gave input on this proposed rule change. President Obama was given updates through several reports of the changes under the EO 13650 on the actions and recommendations for change. Even a Small Business Advocacy Review Panel finalized a report on February 19, 2016 with their own recommendations.

Here is a summary of the proposed changes:

  1. An additional requirement for the process hazard analysis (PHA) required for Program 3 processes. A Program 3 process is defined as one where in the case of an accidental chemical release, the community would be affected and the programs are not subject under OSHA jurisdiction. This change is aimed squarely at the public utilities and public sectors without an OSHA state program.
  2. Enhancements to the emergency preparedness requirements. Compliance with this change is addressed through the EPA All-Hazards Boot Camp. The All-Hazards Boot Camp is an online training module created to help the utility visualize and prepare for hazards in all stages of an event:
    • Prevention and Mitigation
    • Preparedness
    • Response
    • Recovery

For a more detailed understanding of the EPA All-Hazards Boot Camp refer to my December 16, 2015 article entitled Online Training: EPA’s “All-Hazards Boot Camp”.

Video: Don't Get Soaked: Invest in Emergency Preparedness, Prevention and Mitigation Activities

  1. Increased public availability of chemical hazard information, and
  2. Several other changes to certain regulatory definitions and data elements submitted in the RMPs.
  3. Third party audits – If the RMP facility has a reportable accident, then an independent third party must conduct the next schedule audit.
  4. Incident investigation and root cause analysis – Incident investigations after an event that was either major or could have been major would require a root cause analysis submitted to the EPA.
  5. Safer technology alternative analysis – Some Program 3 facilities would be required to evaluate safer technology alternatives when conducting a PHA.
  6. Local Coordination – Increase communication with Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) by required annual meetings.
  7. Emergency Response Exercises – Responding facilities would have tabletop emergency response exercises, with field exercises every five years and yearly notification exercises.
  8. Information sharing to LEPCs – New disclosure requirements where the LEPCs would receive all summaries, updates, and exercises by the facility.
  9. Increasing access to existing public information – The public would be given an opportunity to participate in RMP activities of the facility.

Currently, the proposed rule is open for additional public comment through the federal register until April 14, 2016. After that period the proposed rule will advance to becoming a final rule depending on the public comments.