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

On December 3, 2018, the EPA published a final rule in the Federal Register (83 FR 62268) making the 2017 amendments effected as of that day.  In doing so, the EPA noted that it had no discretion in the matter as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Court issued its decision vacating the 2017 Delay Rule and later issued its mandate which made the RMP Amendments now effective.  EPA further saw no good cause to open rulemaking to accept comments or delay effectiveness for another 30 days.

Many of the requirements in the amended rule contained future compliance dates (beyond 2018) and therefore this action has no effect on them.  However several requirements are now effective including:

  • Tri-annual audits cover each process units;
  • Supervisor training requirements;
  • Emergency response coordination requirements;
  • Incident investigation report and scope (i.e., near miss) revisions other than “root cause analysis provisions in §§68.60(d)(7) and 68.81(d)(7) which go into effect in 2021; and
  • Emergency Response Plan updates where appropriate.

Whereas the proposed Reconsideration Rule could roll all this back, these provisions are now in effect.

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

On May 30, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published proposed revisions to the Risk Management Program (RMP) rules that would largely undo changes to the (stayed) final rule published on January 13, 2017.  See 83 Fed. Reg. 24850 (May 30, 2018).  Although not a complete one hundred eighty degree U-turn, the revised proposed rule pretty much guts most of the 2017 changes.  Rather than spending time parsing out what stayed from what was removed, I thought it would be more useful to consider the underlying message.

  • EPA has no ongoing obligation to modify RMP. EPA notes that section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) contains four provisions that require EPA to promulgate regulations.  EPA believes that they have “met all of its regulatory obligations under section 112(r) prior to promulgating the RMP Amendments rule.”  83 Fed. Reg. at 24856 – 57.  EPA further explains that changes to the rule are allowed, but such changes are discretionary.
  • Discretionary changes to RMP should be coordinated with OSHA and reflect costs. The RMP prevention program requirements, from its initial promulgation in 1966 until the 2017 (stayed) rulemaking, were effectively identical to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OHSA) Process Safety Management (PSM) program rules.  This is not surprising as EPA is obligated to coordinate with OSHA pursuant to CAA section 112(r)(7)(D).  “While EPA has amended the Risk Management Program several times after 1996 without corresponding OSHA amendments to its PSM standard, these changes did not involve the prevention program provisions, thus precluding any need for coordination with OSHA.”  83 Fed. Reg. at 24864.  Although the EPA recognizes that “at times divergence between the RMP rule and the PSM standard may make sense given the agencies’ different missions,” the 2017 amendment “constitute a divergence from that longstanding practice.”   Further, most of the anticipated costs associated with the new rule are aligned with OSHA preventive program requirements.  Given the cost, coupled with the understanding that changes to the RMP program are discretionary, EPA action is a policy choice.  Id.
  • An enforcement-led approach is preferred to over-regulation. EPA notes that only 8% of RMP covered facilities had reportable accidents and that 2% of the facilities reported 48% of such incidents.  See 83 Fed. Reg at 24872.  Accordingly, instead of burdening all facilities with new rules, EPA believes that it would be more efficient to fulfill the goal of RMP through an enforcement-led approach.  Accordingly, “the RMP Amendments missed the opportunity to better target the burdens of STAA [Safer Technology and Alternatives Analysis] to the specific facilities that are responsible for nearly half of the accidents associated with regulated substances at stationary sources subject to the RMP rule.” 83 Fed. Reg. at 24872.
  • Reporters of RMP incidents beware. See above.
  • Process safety information (PSI) may have no regulatory purpose other than information required to conduct a Process Hazard Analysis (PHA). The 2017 Amendment added a requirement that process safety information be kept up to date.  This requirement was removed without any explanatory discussion.  Arguably, by adding and removing this requirement, the only obligation is to have up-to-date PSI at the beginning of a PHA.  If so, any violation should be a one-time, single-day, violation.
  • Information release should be limited to that which is necessary for developing and implementing emergency response plans. Perhaps just semantics, but EPA modified the requirement to share information with local emergency planning and response organizations from relevant information to information necessary to develop and implement (fearing that the original language was too open-ended).    See 83 Fed. Reg. at 24853.  Arguably, the only true “relevant” reason to request such information would be as needed to develop and implement response plans.  The revised proposed language will accomplish the goal and is less ambiguous.
  • EPA should not require information “synthesis” that connect-the-dots for intended bad actors. Whereas information may be accessible to the public through multiple sources, added hazard may occur through compiling the information in a single source.  See 83 Fed. Reg. at 24867.

A public hearing on the proposed revisions to the RMP rules is planned for June 14, 2018 and comments must be submitted on or before July 30, 2018.

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

On May 17, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released a proposed revision to the Risk Management Program (“RMP”) rule following its reconsideration of the Obama era revisions.  The proposal strips out much of those additions.  According to the Rule Fact Sheet, the reconsidered rule will maintain consistency with the Occupational Safety and Health Administrations’ (“OSHA”) Process Safety Management (“PSM”) regulation, address safety concerns raised in petitions, will reduce compliance cost, and revise compliance dates.  Specifically, the proposed rule will rescind many prior changes including:

  • Requirements for third-party audits;
  • Safer technology and alternatives analysis;
  • Incident investigation root cause analysis; and most other minor changes to keep RMP consistent with PSM;
  • Most of the added requirements related to public information availability; and
  • Supervisor training requirements.

A public hearing is planned for June 14, 2018 and the rule will have a 60 day comment period.  For more information, click here.

Stay tuned as more analysis will follow in the coming weeks.

By R. Lee Vail, P.E., Ph.D. and Lauren J. Rucinski

On August 30, 2017 the D.C. Circuit denied environmental and labor groups’ request to stay the Tump EPA’s final rule delaying the Obama-era amendments to the EPA’s Risk Management Program (“RMP”) rule. The RMP rule implements Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act and requires facilities that use extremely hazardous substances to develop and update a Risk Management Plan.

In June, the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a final rule to further delay the effective date of the RMP rule amendments until February 19, 2019 (“the Delay Rule”).  The delay allows EPA to conduct a reconsideration proceeding to review objections raised by petitioners to the final RMP amendments rule.[1]

Environmental and labor groups challenged the Delay Rule in the D.C. Circuit and then moved to stay the Delay Rule until the court takes full review of it. The groups’ motion requests a stay of the stay of the RMP rule until the court can review the merits of the Delay Rule—which stays the RMP rule. Try to say that five time fast. In any event, the D.C Circuit denied the groups’ motion to stay the Delay Rule. In denying the request for a stay, the D.C. circuit held that the environmental and labor groups had not “satisfied the stringent standards for a stay pending court review.”[2] Thus the Delay Rule will remain in effect while the D.C. Circuit reviews the merits of the groups’ challenge.

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[1] 82 Fed. Reg. 27133 (June 14, 2017).

[2] The Court also denied EPA’s motion for additional briefing time on the merits of the groups’ challenge.

refinery_sunset_10212716

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).

louisiana

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

At the very end of 2016, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated two Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) citations for alleged violations of Process Safety Management (“PSM”) regulations. In that case, the Court held that OSHA was barred from issuing a citation for the failure to act on Process Hazard Analysis (“PHA”) findings/recommendations that remained open beyond the six month statute of limitations provided in 29 U.S.C.A. §658(c) of the Occupational Safety Health Act of 1970. See, Delek Ref., Ltd. v. Occupational Safety & Health Review Comm’n, 845 F.3d 170, 179 (5th Cir. 2016).

Conversely, violations of the Clean Air Act are recognized to be subject to the general federal five-year statute of limitations established by 28 U.S.C. § 2462. See Nat’l Parks & Conservation Ass’n, Inc. v. Tennessee Valley Auth., 502 F.3d 1316, 1322 (11th Cir. 2007). Consistent with this, the “duration of violation” factor under the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) “Combined Enforcement Policy for Clean Air Act Sections 112(r)(1), 112(r)(7) and 40 C.F.R. Part 68 ” reaches its maximum at 60 months. At first glance, it would appear that the Delek decision might have little or no impact on RMP penalties, but that would be incorrect.

Some RMP violations are not continuing violation.

In considering PHA recommendations, the Fifth Circuit concluded:

Just as a single violation “occurr[ed]” in Volks when the company failed to create the records within the prescribed time-period, so too a violation of subsections (e)(5) and (o)(4) “occur[s]” within the meaning of Section 658(c) when an employer does not “promptly” or “timely” do as Section 1910.119 directs.

Id. at 176–77.

RMP has the exact same requirements, albeit at 40 C.F.R. 68.67(e) and 40 C.F.R. 68.79(d). Aligning RMP with PSM based on Delek, no duration of violation factor should apply to violations of §68.67(e) or §68.79(d). Further, this ruling could apply to other RMP provisions that only require compliance by a particular date. For example, this case strengthens the argument that the failure to conduct a specific Management of Change (“MOC”) is a one day violation and not subject to “duration of violation” factor. Delek could similarly affect other RMP requirements.

Prior PHA’s might not be a basis of violation.

Consider the following example. A facility conducts a PHA in 2010, and a second five years later in 2015. Also assume that a recommendation from the 2010 PHA remains open seven years later in 2017. Any single violation based on the 2010 PHA is time barred five years after the facility failed to act promptly or timely. If for argument sake, prompt and timely is considered two years, the five year statute of limitation bars enforcement of the omission by 2017. Further, the EPA might have issues with citing a violation of the open issue based on the 2015 PHA as it may not yet be past the prompt or timely criteria.

Time will tell to what degree Delek will impact the existing RMP penalty policy. Regardless, it could have an impact.

chemical_plant

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

The EPA received three petitions asking it to delay and reconsider amendments to the RMP rule. First, the “RMP Coalition” submitted a petition dated February 28, 2017. On March 13, 2017, the Chemical Safety Advocacy Group also submitted a petition, followed by a third petition from a group of eleven states. On March 13, 2017, Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the EPA, convened a proceeding for reconsideration of the RMP rule amendments and signed a letter that administratively delayed the effective date of the rule for 90 days.

On April 3, 2017, EPA proposed to further delay the effective date of changes to the rule until February 19, 2019. 82 Fed. Reg. 16146 (Apr 3, 2017). In proposing extra time to conduct the reconsideration, the EPA determined “three months to be insufficient to complete the necessary steps in the reconsideration process.” 82 Fed. Reg. at 16148. The EPA noted that it would take time to “prepare the necessary comment solicitations to help focus commenters on issues of central relevance to [their] decision-making.” Id. Further “a separate Federal Register notice published in the near future will specifically solicit comment on the range of issues under reconsideration.” 82 Fed. Reg. at 16149.

Such a further delay would have the effect of also delaying provisions that don’t kick in until later years. “Compliance with all of the rule provisions is not required as the rule does not become effective.” Id. EPA would later “amend the compliance dates as necessary when considering future regulatory action.” Id.

Comments are due by May 19, 2017 on the proposed delay to February 19, 2019.

chem

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

On February 28, 2017, the EPA received a petition from the “RMP Coalition” for reconsideration and a request for a stay from the amendments to the RMP rule. The RMP Coalition consists of several affected industry trade groups, manufacturing groups, and the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America. The petition asserts that:

  • the Local Emergency Planning Committee (“LEPC”) disclosure requirements are open ended, will result in a significant security risk, and that EPA failed to give notice that it may alter the final rule being open-ended;
  • the EPA changed the third-party audit criteria to include an arbitrary trigger that is subject to the whims and imagination of an agency, and EPA did not properly notice or address this change;
  • the EPA did not include information on its cost-benefit findings as required by Michigan v. EPA, 135 S.Ct. 2699 (2015);
  • the scope of the three year audit was expanded to include all covered process without providing notice of the change or the rational;
  • the EPA failed to explain claimed statutory authority to expand the rule;
  • numerous supporting documents were not available during the comment period; and
  • the EPA should reconsider the amendment “in light of the revelations that the West, Texas, incident was an intentional act.”

On March 13, 2017, Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the EPA, convened a proceeding for reconsideration of the RMP rule amendments and signed a letter that administratively delayed the effective date of the rule for 90 days.

plant

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

On March 14, 2016, Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) proposed changes to the Risk Management Plan Program (“RMP”) Rule . On January 13, 2017, the EPA published a new final rule.  This is the final article in a series that addresses five major changes: root cause analysis for near misses, third-party audits, inherently safer technology, emergency response, and availability of information. The subject of this discussion is the changes to the emergency response preparedness requirements.

In proposing extensive additions to §68.210, the EPA concluded that Local Emergency Response Committees (“LEPC”) and the public needed additional information about covered facilities and that rule should mandate automatic submission and posting of such information. Instead, the revised rule facilitates the transmission of information to those that request it.

During the comment period, LEPC’s insisted that they neither had the capacity to accept the mandated submission of information nor ever had difficulty acquiring the information they needed. As a result, as part of the emergency response coordination  revisions, LEPCs may request any relevant information. The discussion of relevant information in this section of the preamble pretty well follows the list given in the discussion of the emergency response section:

The LPEC or local emergency response officials may request such as accident histories, portions of incident investigation reports relevant to emergency response planning, incident investigation reports, records of notification exercises, field and tabletop exercise evaluation reports, or other information relevant to community emergency planning.

The EPA then adds:

For example, this may include requesting information on changes made to the facility that affect risk such as incorporating safer alternatives.

82 Fed. Reg. at 4667.

Similarly, rather than requiring that a faculty distribute specific chemical hazard information to the public, owners and operators must notify the public of the availability of such information. See 40 C.F.R. 68.210(c). Among the advantages touted for this approach was that the facilities would be informed about who requested the information (at least the initial recipient). The information available through such requests is limited to “only information that could improve community awareness of risk.” 82 Fed. Reg. at 4669. EPA explicitly rejected comments that Safer Technology and Alteration Analysis (“STAA”), incident investigations, and third party audit reports should also be available to the public.

The revised rule requires that facilities must hold a public meeting follow an incident that meets the accident reporting criteria found in §68.42 (five year update criteria). Information communicated during the public meeting includes the same information included in the five year accident history (e.g., on and offsite impacts, root cause, etc.), as well as the information listed in §68.210(b) that is already available upon request. This public meeting must occur within 90 days of such an incident.

Finally, the EPA also added a requirement that RMPs shall be available to the public consistent with 40 CFR Part 1400. This appears to be little more than a cross reference to notify the public that RMPs are available in federal reading rooms.

On January 26, 2017, the EPA delayed the effective date of several regulations, including these changes to the RMP rule. Whereas this rule is now expected to go in effect on March 21, 2017, this rule is subject to Congressional Review Act and could be undone by that process.

To sign up for Lee Vail’s Process Safety Management e-Alert, send an email to client_services@keanmiller.com

chem

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

Effective January 17, 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new instructions concerning its National Emphasis Program (NEP) as it relates to chemical process subject to Process Safety Management (PSM). See Directive Number CPL-03-00-021. PSM requirements are codified at 29 CFR 1910.119.   Prior NEPs were implemented for Petroleum Refining in 2007 and 2009 and ended in 2011. With the new instructions, refining is back on the list. NEP Inspections are divided up into Programmed and Unprogrammed Inspections, each of which has its own trigger or criteria.

Unprogrammed Inspections: These inspections are initiated as the result of a complaint, referral, accidents, or catastrophes.

Initiating Event NEP Application Limits/Expansion
Complaint/referral related to PSM Standard

Follow CEMP NEP

 

Inspection of contractor and host

If initiated by contractor, normally limited to complaint/referral items/subject and contractor questions
Complaint/referral not related to PSM Standard Normally limited to specific (non-PSM) issue OSHA may decide to expand to include CEMP NEP if the facility has not been inspected under PSM NEP.
Accident/Catastrophe that involves PSM Standard Follow CEMP NEP Includes an incident investigation
Accidents/Catastrophe that does not involve PSM Standard Normally limited to specific (non-PSM) issue OSHA may decide to expand to include CEMP NEP if the facility has not been inspected under PSM NEP.

Programmed Inspections: The process is initiated by creation of a list of targeted facilities based on a number of factors: facilities subject to EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP), previously OSHA cited facilities, facilities with SIC codes identified as explosive/pyrotechnincs, and other sources of available information. Approved facilities participating in OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) or Consultation Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) and facilities that have had a NEP inspection in the last three years are removed from the list. Please note that VPP status does not prevent the possibility of an unprogrammed inspection. The final list is randomized and OSHA established the following annual inspection objectives.

Category Facility Type Inspection Target
1 Facilities likely to have ammonia refrigeration 25% of Programmed
2 Petroleum refineries 30 per year
3 Chemical Manufacturing 45% of Programmed
4 Other PSM Covered Facilities 30% of programmed

Otherwise, the new NEP instructions explain the process and expectations of a NEP inspection and should be considered carefully in the event of an inspection. The NEP provides a good overview of the areas to be investigated and the limitations that an employer should expect. Careful notice should be taken of the process and these expected limitations as the NEP instructions also include off-ramps to expand the investigation under certain circumstance.