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EPA Issues Final Changes to Risk Management Plan Regulations

Jan 04, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) late last month announced final changes to its Risk Management Plan (RMP) regulations aimed at preventing the accidental release of hazardous chemicals. For dairy companies, this rule regulates anhydrous ammonia, the most commonly used chemical in industrial refrigeration systems, and chlorine, a chemical used in the wastewater treatment process.

The changes will require:

  • Root-cause analyses during incident investigations;
  • Third-party lead compliance audits;
  • Periodic emergency response drills and exercises at facilities with local emergency responder involvement; and
  • Providing information about chemical hazards to the public and local emergency responders upon request.

These changes come after EPA held a Small Business Review panel in fall 2015 to review the impact of proposed changes on regulated small businesses. IDFA participated on this panel and submitted comments on the proposed rule in May, saying these changes could have a negative impact on the dairy industry without supporting the goals and purposes of the rule, which is to prevent chemical accidents and minimize the possible impact of those accidents on communities.

“We appreciate that EPA addressed several of the concerns raised by the dairy industry, such as information sharing and facility security, but we believe several provisions would be more effective with additional revision,” said Emily Lyons, IDFA director of regulatory affairs. “It’s possible that the agency was more concerned with rushing to issue the regulation before the change in administration.”

Congressional Review

This rule could potentially come under review by the Trump Administration or be subject to the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which gives lawmakers 60 legislative days to overturn a regulation from the administration or previous administration. If lawmakers are not in session for 60 days before adjourning their final session, the clock rests, and the new Congress is given 60 days to act.

IDFA had suggested several areas the EPA needed to revise before finalizing the rule, including: 

  • The definition for catastrophic release should not be expanded to include onsite injuries from chemical accidents as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Process Safety Management (PSM) regulation already protects workers;
  • Root cause analyses should be limited to reportable accidents;
  • Criteria for third party audits are far too restrictive and will limit dairy companies’ ability to find qualified auditors;
  • Delegation of EPA’s authority to local emergency planning committees to require facilities to create emergency response plans is unlawful;
  • Emergency response drill reports should be limited in scope and detail; and
  • The public disclosure requirements are excessive and would compromise a facility’s security rather than protect it.

EPA has established a staggered implementation schedule for various provisions in the rule:

  • Facilities must comply with the emergency response coordination activities within one year of the effective date of the final rule;
  • Non-responding facilities that receive a request from a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) or local emergency response organization to create an emergency response plan have three years to create this plan;
  • Facilities will have four years to comply with the other new provisions  (i.e., third-party compliance audits, root cause analyses as part of incident investigations, safer technology and alternatives analysis, emergency response exercises and information availability provisions); and
  • EPA is providing regulated facilities one additional year (i.e., five years after the effective date of the final rule) to correct or resubmit risk management plans to reflect new and revised data elements required under the rule.

Members with questions may contact Emily Lyons, IDFA director of regulatory affairs and counsel, at

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