100+ organizations urge EPA to live up to its EJ commitments by strengthening chemical disaster rule

Press contact: Deidre Nelms, dnelms@comingcleaninc.org 802-251-0203 ext. 711 

(October 31, 2022) 101 organizations that are members or allies of the Coalition to Prevent Chemical
Disasters urged the EPA to fully satisfy the law and the agency’s core commitments on environmental justice, worker safety, and climate change by strengthening its proposed Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention rule (Docket Number EPA-HQ-OLEM2022-0174). The comment can be read in full below:

October 31, 2022
The Honorable Michael Reagan
EPA Office of the Administrator Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW 1101A
Washington, DC 20460

Re: Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs Under the Clean
Air Act; Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention (Docket Number EPA-HQ-OLEM2022-0174)

Dear Administrator Regan:

The 101 organizations listed below that are members or allies of the Coalition to Prevent Chemical
Disasters and represent fenceline, community, worker, environmental justice, conservation, science,
health and other constituencies affected by chemical disasters and EPA’s Risk Management Program
(RMP) regulation submit these comments on October 31, 2022 in response to Docket ID Number EPAHQ-OLEM-2022-0174.

We appreciate EPA’s efforts to issue the RMP Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention
proposed rule and Administrator Regan’s acknowledgment that “protecting public health is central to
EPA’s mission, particularly as we adapt to the challenges of climate change, and the proposal announced
today advances this effort, especially for those in vulnerable communities.” We have been encouraged
that EPA has held virtual listening sessions before drafting the rule and hearings during the proposed rule
comment period, during which the organizations submitting this comment have been calling for EPA to
finally fix critical weaknesses in the RMP rule. Such deficiencies have left workers and communities
vulnerable to severe hazards and over 3,400 incidents since 2004 alone, many causing death, injury, toxic
exposure and other harm.

EPA’s proposal incorporates many essential provisions we have called for that are well-supported by the
evidence and that are likely to save lives, prevent injury, and protect communities from shelter-in-place
and evacuation. Yet, despite all of the comments received, it seems that on some centrally important
issues EPA hasn’t fully understood the concerns voiced by fenceline communities, workers, and the
general public. We urge EPA to strengthen the proposal in key ways to fully satisfy the law and the
agency’s core commitments on environmental justice, worker safety, and climate change. EPA’s final rule
must deliver the basic and common-sense protections that communities, workers, and safety experts have
been seeking for decades – and ensure these take effect expeditiously and can be fully implemented and
enforced without further delay.

Specifically, our organizations urge EPA’s final rule to include:

  1. Climate-related prevention and safety measures to protect communities and workers from
    the double threat of chemical disasters hurricanes, floods, and other “natech” incidents
    where there is a domino effect of natural and technological disasters.
    • It is critically important that EPA’s proposal for the first time requires explicit consideration of
    natural or “external” hazards and power loss in hazard reviews and process hazard analyses for
    thousands of the most potentially dangerous chemical facilities, including refineries, chemical
    manufacturers, agricultural chemical facilities, water treatment systems, and many more – and
    requires reporting on implemented mitigation measures to avoid these hazards. There is a strong
    need for these requirements as shown by evidence that at least one-third of all RMP facilities are
    located in areas facing high climate risks.
    • We also call on EPA to go further to require the adoption of chemical release prevention practices
    that can withstand the risk of climate- and natural disaster-related hazards like requiring facilities
    to implement natural hazard mitigation and backup power systems for all RMP process
    equipment (not just monitors), and for the agency to take the steps needed to enforce this
  2. Stronger disaster prevention measures, e.g., identification and use of available, inherently
    safer methods that can eliminate or reduce catastrophic hazards altogether.
    • Requiring Safer Technologies Alternatives Analysis (STAA) and that facilities report on
    implemented STAA is one of the most vitally needed parts of the proposed rule and it is essential
    that EPA finalize this for people who live and go to school near and who work at or near the
    petroleum refineries and chemical manufacturers addressed in the proposal. However, EPA’s
    proposed rule dangerously narrows the scope and benefit of the 2017 STAA provisions to cover
    just 5 percent of RMP facilities which denies this important protection to millions of community
    members, workers, and first-responders near other types of facilities who also need safer
    technologies, including hazard elimination, as the most important tool to prevent chemical
    disasters and avoid harm if an incident occurs. In order to prevent chemical disasters and death,
    injury, toxic exposure and other resulting harm, the agency should require STAA from all of the
    most potentially dangerous facilities, including at least all petroleum, chemical, and pulp/paper
    manufacturing processes, as well as water and wastewater treatment facilities, bleach producers,
    and fertilizer plants.
    • In addition, we ask EPA to move beyond just the assessment and reporting of safer technologies
    to also require that facilities implement the identified alternatives when practicable, working in
    consultation with employees and communities to do so expeditiously.
    • We are encouraged by EPA’s proposed technology transfer provisions for sharing successful
    practices that companies are using to reduce and remove chemical hazards. However, as
    proposed, 95% of RMP facilities will not report any solutions data. EPA should require every
    RMP facility to routinely report the safer technologies/designs evaluated, implemented, or
  3. Common-sense emergency response and incident management measures, e.g., back-up
    power, alerts in multiple languages (including advance community notification),
    fenceline air monitoring, leak detection and repair, emergency response exercises, and
    other best practices of safety leaders.
    • EPA should finalize its proposal to require community notification, and should make clear in the
    rule that this must be provided in all relevant languages necessary to sufficiently communicate to
    all members of the public affected by an RMP facility or potential chemical release, not just those
    located within six miles of a facility.
    • EPA should also follow through to set a deadline and require reporting on emergency response
    field exercises – but should speed up compliance because 10 years is too long to wait for this
    essential emergency planning, especially in communities with multiple RMP facilities.
    • EPA should require real-time air fenceline monitoring and leak detection at all facilities to
    provide for earlier notification and action to reduce harm to first responders and the public in the
    event of an incident, and ensure enforcement sufficient to deter removing air monitoring and
    control equipment from service.
    • EPA should finalize the requirement under the proposed rule that ensures backup power for
    existing air monitors. This requirement should be extended to the additional fenceline monitoring
    that EPA should add under this rule. EPA should also require facilities to have enough back-up to
    safely run or shut down the entire facility in the event of power loss. This is particularly crucial
    in, but not limited to, facilities that are at elevated risk of weather disasters.
  4. Strengthen enforceability, corrective action, and accountability, including necessary
    information access in multiple languages.
    • EPA should assure Clean Air Act Title V implementation of the RMP occurs rather than treat this
    program as less important than other applicable clean air requirements, by revising 40 CFR §
    68.215 so that permits for the approximately 1,800 major air pollution sources that are also RMP
    facilities have sufficient terms to assure compliance with the RMP rule, including adequate
    monitoring and reporting requirements.
    • Recognizing that more effective public disclosure of this information would likely lead to a
    reduction in the number and severity of accidents, EPA’s proposal has expressed intentions of
    making RMP data more accessible to the public. Rather than provide limited access to the
    specified information based on proximity to a facility, EPA should develop a public, multi-lingual
    online database where any member of the public can access non-restrictive RMP facility
    information and risk management plans. EPA should update this information monthly, not
    annually as proposed.
  5. Strengthen worker participation.
    • Support meaningful collaboration of employees and their representatives with management to
    design, implement, and evaluate all phases of the Risk Management Program, including hazard
    assessment, Safer Technology Alternatives Analysis, incident investigation, third party
    compliance audits, Stop Work Authority, anti-discrimination measures and emergency response.
    • Ensure that employees and their representatives at all RMP facilities (regardless of Program
    level) have common rights and authorities. All workers should be able to protect safety.
    • Adopt EPA’s proposal for Stop Work Authority, a last line of defense to prevent disasters (and
    provide this authority to workers at all RMP sites).
    • Require owners and operators to document and respond to reports by workers of all RMP-related
    safety issues, including “near-miss” events.
    • Strengthen and clarify proposed anonymous reporting provisions.
    • Require owners or operators to provide employees and their representatives with readily
    accessible information and effective training on RMP rule provisions.
    • Require owners or operators to implement a written program to help ensure that there is no
    discrimination against any employee or employee representative for exercising authorities under
    this rule.
  6. Expand coverage of the RMP program to more facilities, processes and chemicals.
    • The proposed rule does not expand the program to cover any new chemicals, including the highly
    dangerous ammonium nitrate (AN), or lower the threshold for hazardous chemicals that would
    trigger coverage under the program. We call on EPA to commit to take prompt action to update
    the list of covered hazardous chemicals ASAP, no later than the end of 2023.
    • EPA should also immediately redefine “stationary source” to ensure that the entire facility must
    comply with RMP requirements if any part of it is covered.
    An improved final RMP rule is urgently needed to protect workers, communities and first responders by
    focusing on preventing chemical disasters through hazard reduction and elimination. EPA must follow the
    science and apply new information and lessons learned to prevent disasters and save lives. It is essential
    for EPA to issue a stronger new rule expeditiously that requires robust hazard reduction to prevent
    chemical disasters. Please fulfill this Administration’s promises on environmental justice, worker safety,
    and climate change by strengthening this rule to end preventable chemical disasters, and assure the
    strongest possible protection for workers and communities becomes fully enforceable, once and for all, to
    ensure that a Bhopal-level disaster never occurs on U.S. soil.

    10 Votes
    1000 Grandmothers for Future Generations
    350 New Hampshire
    5 Gyres Institute
    AFGE Local 704
    Air Alliance Houston
    Alabama Interfaith Power & Light
    Alaska Community Action on Toxics
    Athens ReThink Plastics
    Between the Waters
    Beyond Plastics
    Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League
    Breathe Project
    Buckeye Environmental Network
    California Communities Against Toxics
    California Kids IAQ
    California Safe Schools
    Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribal Nation of Texas
    Cascadia Climate Action Now
    Center for Environmental Health
    Central California Environmental Justice Network
    Cherokee Concerned Citizens
    Citizens Coal Council
    Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger
    Clean Air Action Network of Glens Falls
    Clean Air Council
    Clean Air Muscatine
    Climate Action Campaign of the Humboldt
    Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
    Codepink San Francisco Bay Area
    Coming Clean
    Comite Civico Del Valle, Inc.
    Common Ground Rising
    Concerned Health Professionals of Pennsylvania
    Defend Our Health
    Desert Citizens Against Pollution
    Don’t Waste Arizona
    Downwinders at Risk
    Earth Action, Inc.
    Earth Ethics, Inc.
    East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice
    Environmental Defense Fund
    Environment Texas
    Environmental Justice Health Alliance for
    Chemical Policy Reform (EJHA)
    Extinction Rebellion San Francisco Bay Area
    Forest Keeper
    Fresh Air Vallejo
    FreshWater Accountability Project
    Fridays for Future Charlotte
    Friends of the Earth
    Healthy Gulf
    Honor the Earth
    Hoosier Environmental Council
    Hudson River Sloop Clearwater
    Inland Ocean Coalition
    Kentucky Environmental Foundation
    Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light
    League of Conservation Voters
    Los Jardines Institute – New Mexico
    Lunt Neighborhood Action Group, Inc.
    Micah 6:8 Mission
    Milwaukee Riverkeeper
    Moms Clean Air Force
    New Jersey Work Environment Council
    New Mexico Environmental Law Center
    North Country Earth Action
    Northern California Recycling Association
    Occupy Bergen County (New Jersey)
    People Over Pipelines
    Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles
    Plastic Pollution Coalition
    Progressive Coder Network
    Project Outreach: The Frac Sand Sentinel
    Protect All Children’s Environment
    Resource Renewal Institute
    San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council
    Save Our Shores
    Sequoia ForestKeeper®
    Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life
    Surfrider Foundation
    Terra Advocati
    Texas Campaign for the Environment
    The Descendants Project
    The Enviro Show
    The Last Beach Cleanup
    The People’s Justice Council
    Torrance Refinery Action Alliance
    Turtle Island Restoration Network
    U.S. PIRG
    U.S. PIRG Education Fund
    Unite North Metro Denver
    Union of Concerned Scientists
    Valley Improvement Projects (VIP)
    Valley Watch, Inc.
    Veterans for Peace
    Waterkeeper Alliance
    West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe