On July 24th, 2014,the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Request for Information (RFI), soliciting public input on potential revisions to its Risk Management Program (RMP) with the goal of modernizing its regulations as mandated by the federal government under Executive Order 13650: Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security. The ultimate purpose of the proposed rules is to prevent major chemical accidents such as the West, Texas explosion that occurred at the West Fertilizer facility on April 17, 2013. OSHA already issued a similar RFI on December 9, 2013 for its Process Safety Management (PSM) standard and while the EPA was not explicitly required to publish an RFI, its RMP regulation is so closely tied to PSM that the agency decided to act in parallel with OSHA.
Both the RMP and PSM regulations affect facilities with processes that utilize chemicals in quantities above established thresholds (both the EPA and OSHA developed threshold quantity lists). Facilities that fall under PSM or RMP must put in place a series of management systems and maintain certain required documentation, which are intended to improve chemical process safety and prevent catastrophes.
The EPA’s RFI requests much of the same information as OSHA’s, such as data on the economic impacts and safety benefits of amending the regulation. Both agencies are also considering adding new substances to their lists of regulated substances and adopting additional management system requirements. Proposed rules that may be of particular interest include:
•Requiring third party auditors for Compliance Audits Like OSHA, the EPA is also considering requiring third-party auditors to conduct compliance audits, which are required at least every three years.The current requirement is only that at least one person “knowledgeable in the process” be part of the compliance audit team.
•Revising the scope of Mechanical Integrity to include safety-critical equipment Mechanical integrity requires inspections and maintenance procedures of piping systems, valves, storage tanks, pressure vessels, relief and vent systems and devices, emergency shutdown systems controls (including monitoring devices, sensors, alarms, and interlocks) and pumps, but the EPA believes including safety-critical equipment will help improve chemical processing safety.
•Add stationary source location requirements to Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) While facility siting must be addressed in a PHA, the EPA is considering expanding the specific requirements. For example, they are considering adding the establishment of buffer or setback zones to RMP requirements—these zones would be distances from the potential danger where it would be safe to house certain occupancies, such as control rooms, cafeterias, or contractor trailers. The idea behind this is to separate the public and other facilities from consequences of process incidents.
•Changing the criteria for Worst Case Release Scenarios to include quantities of aggregate vessels stored in close proximity The RMP regulation currently requires facilities to determine the maximum quantity of a regulated substance release from a vessel, but does not require sites to take into account numerous small vessels of hazardous substances.
For a complete list of proposed RMP rules see the EPA’s RFI: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/07/31/2014-18037/accidental-release-prevention-requirements-risk-management-programs-under-the-clean-air-act-section
The public will have until October 29th, 2014 to submit written comments online, http://www.regulations.gov (the portal for federal rulemaking), or by mail. To view information on Executive Order 13650: http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/eo_improving_chem_fac.htm
OSHA’s RFI for the PSM regulations can be found here: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/12/09/2013-29197/process-safety-management-and-prevention-of-major-chemical-accidents
For more information, please contact Alex Wong Berman at 508.970.0033 ext. 126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.