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EPA released the prepublication version of its Risk Management Program (RMP) Reconsideration Rule November 20, which will reverse several amendments to the Risk Management Program Rule that were finalized in the closing days of the Obama administration.

The base rule requires facilities that use RMP-covered hazardous substances, such as water treatment plants and other facilities that store gaseous chlorine, to develop a risk management plan detailing how risks related to the potential accidental release of the substance would be prevented or addressed. The Obama Administration’s amendments significantly expanded the rule’s requirements by requiring covered facilities: to arrange for third-party audits of their compliance following a chemical incident; to release certain facility chemical hazard information to the public; and (in the case of some covered facilities) to conduct a safer technologies alternatives analysis, among other changes.

The just-released Reconsideration Rule undoes these and several other mandates that were added by the Obama administration “to better address potential security risks, reduce unnecessary and ineffective regulatory burdens on facilities and emergency responders, harmonize … with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Process Safety Management standard.”  Water systems with inventories of gaseous chlorine or anhydrous ammonia will remain subject to RMP requirements similar to what were in place before the Obama administration proposed its changes, though the new rule does retain some portions of the Obama rule.

Last year AMWA commented on the initial version of the Reconsideration Rule. The association recommended that the final rule eliminate requirements for third-party audits, broad public information sharing that could be exploited by terrorists, and public meetings following chemical incidents that do not have offsite consequences. Conversely, AMWA also called for retention of provisions to enhance a facility’s coordination with local first responders. The association’s favored position in each of these instances is reflected in the final rule.

The final Reconsideration Rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register in the coming days, but that will not be the final word on the matter. Environmental and public interest community stakeholders are likely to challenge the rule in court, arguing that the Trump administration should reinstate the Obama-era regulations.