EPA Announces that January 2017 Revised RMP Rules are Now Effective

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On December 3, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Federal Register notice advising the regulated community that EPA’s controversial Clean Air Act (CAA) stationary source Risk Management Program (RMP) rules are effective as of December 3, 2018 – the Final Rule: Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act (83 FR 62268). The initial package of the RMP rules was promulgated in 1996, but a series of chemical explosions prompted the development of new rules, whose process safety, third party auditing, emergency response, preparedness and information sharing provisions were designed to confront these challenges.

The latest iteration of these rules was published on January 13, 2017, or only a few days before the new administration took office. The new administration took various administrative steps to delay them for a while. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in its August 17, 2018 decision in Air Alliance Houston, et al., v EPA, held that the arguments made to delay the effective date of these rules were not consistent with the relevant provisions of the CAA. The Court of Appeals also stated that EPA retains authority under the CAA to ”substantially amend the programmatic requirements of the Chemical Disaster Rule, and pursuant to that authority, revise its effective and compliance dates, subject to arbitrary and capricious review.”

The RMP rules are located in the Code of Federal Regulations at 40 C.F.R. Part 68. Once that ruling became effective, EPA published this notice.

It should be noted that EPA formally proposed substantive changes to the rule,  83 FR 24850 (May 30, 2018), but it is likely to be several months before that rulemaking process is complete. In the interim, EPA indicates it will carefully use its enforcement discretion until new rules are in place.

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