The Dizzying Story of the Updated RMP Rule: Spoiler Alert—Compliance Date for Most of the Changes is March 15, 2021
PSM/RMP for the Uninitiated: The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) both enforce similar requirements for facilities that have more than the threshold quantity of listed highly hazardous chemicals. OSHA established the requirements under the Process Safety Management (PSM) rule [29 CFR 1910.119] and USEPA established the requirements under the Risk Management Program (RMP) rule [40 CFR 68].
Go ahead and roll your eyes, but remember that I’m just the messenger.
Some of you may remember a 2013 Executive Order to improve chemical facility safety and security, which prompted OSHA and USEPA to re-visit the PSM and RMP rules. Feel free to visit my previous blog post if you want to refresh yourself on any of the details. You may also remember that USEPA published the updated RMP rule (known as the “RMP Amendments Rule”) in the Federal Register in the final days of the Obama administration. Here’s another previous post so you can see a summary of the changes.
The publication date in the Federal Register was January 13, 2017. Therefore, facilities should have been implementing some of the changes by March 15, 2018; the bulk of the changes by March 15, 2021; and the last of the changes by March 15, 2022. So, what happened?
Well, Washington insiders can tell you that the Trump administration has different priorities than the Obama administration. As a result, in March 2017, USEPA delayed the effective date of the updated rule. In June 2017, the USEPA further delayed the effective date to February 19, 2019, so they could consider revising or rescinding the changes. On May 30, 2018, USEPA proposed changes to rescind and/or modify several aspects of the rule. They called it the “RMP Reconsideration Rule”.
At this point, many people (like me) considered the RMP Amendments Rule essentially dead. Imagine my surprise when I saw on September 21, 2018, that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court issued a mandate that makes the 2017 RMP Amendments rule effective – NOW. It’s back! Please refer to the recent summary provided by USEPA.
Wait… is it really back? Won’t there be an appeal?
The punch line is: I don’t know. However, I do know that we want to avoid catastrophic accidents. Please don’t manage your safety program based on your support of or opposition to a political platform. Think clearly about your risks, evaluate your risk management processes, and implement a program that will effectively prevent accidents. The law is important, so you should know the regulatory requirements. However, I also encourage you to take advantage of the wisdom and guidance offered by organizations like the Center for Chemical Process Safety so you can avoid disasters. Regardless of regulatory requirements, we should all strive to have a safe process.