EPA Has Released Its Proposed Chemical Safety Rule and the News Is Not Good

On Friday August 19 the Environmental Protection Agency released revisions to the RMP rule entitled, “Accidental Release Prevention Program Requirements under the Clean Air Act; Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention.” Among other things, the proposal does not require refineries to phase out HF, but leaves it up to them to determine the need.

What has happened? The EPA has issued a revised rule

The effort to bring about conversion from HF in refineries to one of several commercially proven alternatives took a bad turn with the recent release of the EPA revised rule to “Achieve safer communities through chemical accident prevention”.

While the rule has some advances like confirmation of the exceptional danger of HF and the availability of proven alternative safer technology, it regresses in its solutions.

Here’s what’s wrong with EPA proposed rule

  1. It does not provide a pathway for replacement of dangerous chemicals like HF even though safer alternatives are practically available. “EPA contends that the practicability of these potentially safer alternatives are situation-specific…operators are usually in the best position to make these determinations” EPA uses the term “potentially” while even the American Petroleum In Association says there are “commercially proven alternatives”. This is a shocking statement that abandons the EPA’s General Duty to protect the community by leaving the decision to the owners.
  2. Facilities using chemicals that can cause mass casualties can merely state that it’s not practical to convert. California regulation already requires a safer technology alternative assessment for the last five years with little to no effect. Like California, the EPA rule does not require any third-party audit of the refinery’s assessment nor does it require conversion, if the inherently safer technology is practicable.
  3. It does not consider at all the national security threat of “Soft Targets”. Despite receiving many statements from nationally recognized leaders on the security concerns from HHCs, there is nothing to require greater security attention for such facilities.
  4. It does not consider at all the risk from transportation of chemicals capable of mass casualties. Despite stating EPA collaborates with Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security who are the primary oversight for transportation, there are no provisions for involvement of those departments in this rule to prevent such catastrophes.
  5. It does not even require informing the public about the presence of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (HHC) – Individuals in the six mile radius can request information, but no systematic information distribution is required to the residents of the surrounding communities.

For those of us who lived within the end point for death and serious injury in 40+ communities, we have tested the EPA proposals method to make communities safe from HF/MHF.

It has failed.

See the TRAA response to the proposal.

The EPA requested comments from the public and scheduled public hearings on Sept 26,27, 28 where the public can respond. Perhaps with enough pressure from many quarters, we can force changes in that rule.