Three years in the making, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a rule that will change accidental release prevention program requirements. This will affect industries for which local governments are responsible (e.g. water-wastewater treatment facilities). Also adding to the responsibilities of local governments, emergency protocol changes will require regulated facilities to consult with emergency managers annually for exercises.

These revisions to the Risk Management Programs under the Clean Air Act are an effort to improve chemical facility safety following a decade of more than 1,500 reportable accidents resulting in some 60 deaths and 17,000 injuries in the U.S.

The proposed rule includes the following elements:

  • Incident investigation and accident history requirements
  • Third-party compliance audits
  • Safer technology and alternatives analysis
  • Stationary source location and emergency shutdown
  • Emergency response program coordination with local responders
  • Facility exercises
  • Proposed public disclosure requirements to local emergency planning committees or emergency response officials
  • Proposed revisions to requirements for information availability to the public

As the rule currently stands, many local governments could be lacking adequate increases in federal funding to compensate for the increased costs associated with the new requirements. Along with the costs of implementing new regulations on publicly owned facilities, annual tabletop and quinquennial field exercises could require the involvement of emergency responders, all adding financial burdens.

Though the public comment period has passed, the National Association of Counties (NACo), the National League of Cities, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors are planning to meet with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to discuss cost implications.

Read more here about NACo's planned meeting with the OIRA.

Read the EPA summary here and access the full text of the proposed rule.

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