D.C. Circuit Strikes Down the Trump EPA Delay of Obama EPA’s Overhaul of the Risk Management Program Rule

By Micah Smith, Eric J. Conn, and Beeta Lashkari

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.”

While the Court criticized the agency for Continue reading