EPA Sued for Delay on Chemical Risk Plan

Wednesday, August 23, 2017 @ 12:08 PM gHale

Attorneys general from 11 states asked the D.C. Circuit court on Monday to overturn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) move postponing by nearly two years the implementation of an Obama-era rule designed to reduce the risk of chemical accidents, calling the delay illegal.

In a petition for review and asking for reversal of the EPA’s delaying rule, published in the Federal Register in June and pushes the effect date of the Obama administration’s amendments to the Risk Management Program (RMP), known as the Chemical Accident Safety Rule, by 20 months, the attorneys general said the agency doesn’t have authority under the Clean Air Act to draw out implementation of the updates for so long.

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“It’s simply outrageous to block these common sense protections — and attorneys general will keep fighting back when our communities are put at risk,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is leading the suit.

The attorneys general of Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington are also on the petition.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in June signed a final rule that delays by 20 months the effective date of the chemical safety rule, which the Obama administration had introduced to help prevent chemical accidents by, for instance, improving chemical process safety and providing local emergency authorities with assistance in planning for and responding to accidents.

Pruitt said at the time the multi-month delay, which followed the agency’s initial decision in March to delay the rule by 90 days, will let the agency conduct a reconsideration proceeding.

But the attorneys general said in a statement there is a pressing need for the safety benefits, which the amendments are sure to bring.

The Accidental Release Prevention Requirements for Risk Management Programs under section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act, also called the RMP regulations, require certain facilities to develop and implement a risk management program. The EPA shares RMP information with state and local officials so they can prevent and plan for accidents. The updates to the regulations were a key action item under former President Barack Obama’s executive order regarding the improvement of chemical facilities safety and security.

The finalized amendments include requiring the consideration of safer technologies and alternatives, requiring third-party audits and root cause analysis and enhancing emergency planning and preparedness requirements to help ensure coordination between facilities and local communities.

The revisions were prompted by a 2013 executive order issued by Obama following several catastrophic chemical facility incidents, including a 2013 fertilizer plant fire and explosion in the city of West, Texas, that killed 15 people and injured hundreds more.

A representative for the EPA declined to comment on Monday.

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