Earlier this week, on December 12, 2019, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for its long-awaiting chemical incident reporting rule, which sets out the circumstances when facility owners and operators are required to file reports with the CSB of accidental chemical releases and what must be communicated in the reports.
As stated in the NPRM, the purpose of the rule is “to ensure that the CSB receives rapid, accurate reports of any accidental release that meets established statutory criteria.”
If promulgated, the rule would require owners and operators of stationary sources (chemical facilities) to report accidental releases that result in a fatality, serious injury, or substantial property damage to the CSB within four hours. The proposed rule also identifies the specific information required to be included in the accidental release report:
A brief description of the accidental release;
Whether the release resulted in a fire, explosion, death, serious injury, or property damage;
The number of fatalities and/or serious injuries, and the estimated property damage at or outside the stationary source;
The name of the material involved;
The amount of the release; and
Whether the accidental release resulted in an evacuation order impacting members of the general public and other details associated with the evacuation.
Importantly, recognizing that some or all of this information may not be known within four hours of an accidental release, the CSB decided to include the qualifier — “if known” — for much of the information that would be required in the report.
Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit handed EPA (and Industry) a significant setback in the long-running battle over the 2017 Amendments to EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) Rule (EPA’s companion regulation to OSHA’s Process Safety Management Standard). Specifically, in a per curiam order in Air Alliance Houston v. EPA, the D.C. Circuit held that EPA under the Trump Administration acted improperly when it issued a final rule delaying the effective date by 20 months (from June 2017 to February 2019), of a significant set of Amendments to the RMP Rule that had been promulgated in the final days of the Obama Administration.
This ruling creates significant concern for the regulated community. The Amendments require major overhauls to they way covered employers implement their risk management plans. But EPA is still advancing a rulemaking to rescind and narrow those Amendments. Without this delay, there is tremendous uncertainty about whether or when to implement changes to those programs.
Indeed, EPA’s express purpose of the lengthy delay of the RMP Amendments was to provide time for EPA to reconsider and eliminate or curtail the sweeping new provisions. The D.C. Circuit criticized EPA for its attempts to delay a regulation that it had just recently issued, stating in the written opinion that:
“the Delay Rule thus contains no provisions that advance or accomplish these goals [of preventing accidental releases and protecting human health and the environment], but instead delays these objectives contrary to EPA’s prior determinations in a rulemaking.”