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By R. Lee Vail, P.E., Ph.D.

On January 13, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) published a final rule revising portions of the Risk Management Program (“RMP”) rule. On April 3, 2017, the EPA proposed to delay the effective date of the changes until February 19, 2019 to allow for a reconsideration of these changes. 82 Fed. Reg. 16146 (Apr 3, 2017). Comments were due by May 19, 2017 and the comment period is now closed. Four hundred and five (405) public comments are available on Regulations.Gov and range from a few sentences in support of a position to detailed comments. Commenters for denial often state that sufficient time and consideration was allotted in the rule making process and comments supporting the delay often focus on a flawed rule-making process that created the changes.

The current delay is set to expire on June 19, 2017 as the original stay is effective for up to three months.[1] Commenters for the delay state that time is needed to correct the apparent flaws. Comments against the delay include citation to an “expressed mandate that regulations promulgated pursuant to §112(r) have an effective date assuming compliance with RMP requirements as expeditiously as practical.” See United Steelworkers Union comments. In proposing extra time to conduct the reconsideration, the EPA suggested that “three months to be insufficient to complete the necessary steps in the reconsideration process.” 82 Fed. Reg. at 16148. In the event EPA chooses to delay all or portions of the revised rule, a central issue will be the amount of time required.

Separate and aside, the Teamsters Union has teamed up with an environmental group and filed a lawsuit alleging that the public has been denied access to emergency response plans as required by the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (“EPCRA”). In the lawsuit, New Jersey Work Environment Council (NJWEC) et al. v. State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), plaintiffs are seeking access to Emergency Response Plans (“ERP”) developed by the Local Emergency Planning Community (“LEPC”). Whereas the suit is not demanding facility ERPs, the likely source of any information at the LEPC would be facilities. The stayed rule includes provisions that the facility confirm whether the stationary source is included in the community ERP pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 11003 (see stayed rule at 40 CFR 68.180(b)(i)) and increased availability of information to the public (see stayed rule at 40 CFR 68.210). Although the information requested in the lawsuit is not identical to facility information in the stayed rule, it certainly overlaps.

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[1] Such reconsideration shall not postpone the effectiveness of the rule. The effectiveness of the rule may be stayed during such reconsideration, however, by the Administrator or the court for a period not to exceed three months. Clean Air Act §307(d)(7)(B).