WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tom Carper (D-DE) urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to “immediately implement” long-overdue chemical facility safety rule updates that provide new protections from chemical disasters to first responders, facility workers, and fenceline communities. The updated safeguards – which were supposed to go into effect this past March – are amendments to the Accidental Release Prevention Requirements for Risk Management Programs under the Clean Air Act.
The letter follows a decision made by the Administration in June to delay implementation of the critical safety updates nearly two years, to February 2019.
“We ask that you immediately implement these critical safeguards to ensure protections for first responders, facility workers, and communities living adjacent to chemical facilities.
“First responders, communities, and facility workers have been waiting for these updates for decades,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “These constituencies deserve to live, raise their families, and work in a community that is safe from chemical disasters. The EPA’s final amendments…will save lives and create a safer working environment.”
The letter to EPA Director Scott Pruitt was signed by all Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Full text of the letter is below.
August 8, 2017
The Honorable Scott Pruitt
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Administrator Pruitt:
We are writing to urge you to withdraw the June 14, 2017 final rule delaying implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Amendments to the Accidental Release Prevention Requirements for Risk Management Programs under the Clean Air Act. We ask that you immediately implement these critical safeguards to ensure protections for first responders, facility workers, and communities living adjacent to chemical facilities.
These amendments provided much-needed updates to the Risk Management Program (RMP) by granting critical new protections from chemical disasters to first responders, facility workers, and fenceline communities. From 2004 to 2013, there were more than 1,500 serious incidents at chemical facilities, resulting in 58 deaths, over 17,000 injuries, and billions of dollars in property damage. In addition, one out of every three school children attends a school within one mile of a RMP facility.
The improvements in the EPA’s January 2017 RMP Amendments enhance local emergency preparedness and coordination, ensure that lessons are learned from serious accidents by requiring root cause analyses of incidents, and require that information be more readily available to the public. These changes will protect all Americans, but especially the facility workers and first responders who spend time in these facilities, and the low-income communities and communities of color that are more likely to live near them.
The updated RMP Amendments were developed through an exhaustive outreach process, involving more than 60,000 stakeholders and interested parties over the course of three years. EPA gathered input from industry, labor, and community groups, as well as from federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Additional delays after such an extensive and rigorous rulemaking process diminish the engagement by, and input from, these stakeholders.
The following rulemaking timeline illustrates the extensive process undertaken by the agency to finalize these critical updates:
· July 31, 2014: The EPA issued a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit stakeholder feedback on a number of potential modifications to the RMP regulations.
· November 4, 2015: The EPA invited small businesses, governments, and trade associations to participate in a Small Business Advocacy Review panel.
· March 14, 2016: The EPA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking.
· February 9, 2016-December 9, 2016: The EPA held 29 meetings between various stakeholders, including small businesses, industry trade associations, community groups, labor groups, and others and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs/Office of Management and Budget/EPA.
· January 13, 2017: The rule was published in the Federal Register with an initial effective date of March 14, 2017.
· January 20, 2017: Former Chief of Staff to President Donald Trump, Reince Priebus, issued a memo delaying all rules not yet in effect by 60 days.
· March 13, 2017: The EPA stayed the rule an additional 90 days, until June 19, 2017.
· April 3, 2017:The EPA published a proposed rule delaying the effective date of the rule until February 19, 2019.
· April 19, 2017: The EPA held a public meeting on the proposed rule to delay the effective date.
· May 2017: The EPA received comments from the United Steelworkers, the International Association of Firefighters and other emergency response officials, and a coalition of groups whose members live near the fencelines of chemical facilities calling on the EPA not to delay the rule, because their lives and safety are at stake.
· June 14, 2017: EPA published a final rule delaying the effective date of the RMP Amendments until February 19, 2019.
First responders, communities, and facility workers have been waiting for these updates for decades. These constituencies deserve to live, raise their families, and work in a community that is safe from chemical disasters. The EPA’s final amendments to the RMP will save lives and create a safer working environment.