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Why it Matters
In April 2013, an explosion in a West Texas fertilizer factory killed 15 people and injured 180 others. In early 2017, during the Obama Administration, EPA amended chemical facility risk management rules in part to prevent more accidents like this.
After the Obama EPA amended the Chemical Disaster Rule, the Trump EPA delayed putting it into effect until ordered to by the D.C. Circuit. EPA subsequently rolled back most of the rule, however, in 2019. Two challenges are currently pending against the rule in the D.C. Circuit – one by a coalition of organizations, unions, and states, and one by environmental groups.
Jan. 13, 2017 EPA publishes the final Accidental Release Prevention Requirements of the Clean Air Act Risk Management Program.
March 14, 2017 The rule is set to take effect.
Jan. 26, 2017 EPA publishes notice that it will delay the Risk Management Program rules until March 21, 2017.
Feb. 28, 2017 Several industry groups ask EPA to halt the rule entirely and reconsider the rule.
March 16, 2017 EPA publishes a final rule delaying the effective date of the Risk Management Rule to June 19, 2017.
June 14, 2017 EPA publishes notice in the Federal Register that it will further delay implementation 20 months, until Feb. 19, 2019.
June 15, 2017 Environmental groups sue in the DC Circuit Court to stop the rule delays.
July 24, 2017 Eleven states sue EPA over the delays: Rhode Island, New York, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
May 17, 2018 EPA releases a proposed rule to reduce preventative measures and reporting requirements on companies regulated under the rule. The proposed rule, published on May 30, 2018, says “EPA is proposing to rescind amendments relating to safer technology and alternatives analyses, third-party audits, incident investigations, information availability, and several other minor regulatory changes”. The rule is initially open for public comment until June 29, 2018.
July 24, 2018 EPA extends the comment period for its proposed Risk Management Program Reconsideration rule through Aug. 23, 2018 and supplements the record for the proposed rule with the risk management plan data it used to compare the number of facilities reporting in the February 2015 version of the risk management plan database to those reporting in the November 2017 version.
Aug. 17, 2018 The DC Circuit calls EPA’s repeated delays of the Obama-era Risk Management Plan rule (sometimes referred to as the Chemical Disaster Rule) a “mockery” of the Clean Air Act “calculated to enable non-compliance” when it vacates the delay rule as arbitrary and capricious. The court finds the 20-month delay, well beyond the three months allowed under the act, outside the scope of EPA’s authority.
Sep. 21, 2018 The DC Circuit grants petitioners’ request to issue its mandate without delay, placing its order eliminating the delay of the Chemical Disaster Rule into effect.
Dec. 3, 2018 EPA announces that the final rule issued on Jan. 13, 2017 (the “Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act” rule) is in effect . This follows multiple attempts by EPA under the Trump Administration to delay the rule and a court ruling ordering EPA to place the rule in effect.
Nov. 20, 2019 EPA releases a final rule revising its Risk Management Program that rolls back most new requirements in its 2017 rule. The reconsideration rule rescinds third party audit, incident investigation, and information reporting requirements (including requirements to release information to local emergency responders as well as the public), among others. The 2017 requirements to prevent accidental release of hazardous chemicals were developed after a significant chemical facility explosion in West, Texas killed fifteen people in 2013. This is a final rule effective upon publication in the Federal Register with no opportunity for public comment.
Dec. 19, 2019 EPA publishes its final revised rule in the Federal Register, making it effective.
Dec. 19, 2019 A coalition of thirteen organizations, represented by Earthjustice, petitions the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, arguing EPA’s revisions to the Chemical Disaster Rule are unlawful.
Jan. 7, 2020 The United Steelworkers petitions the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit challenging EPA’s changes to the chemical disaster rule, arguing it “rescind[s] crucial provisions” of the rule.
Jan. 29, 2020 Thirteen states, the District of Columbia, and the City of Philadelphia petition the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to review EPA’s final rule published in December, arguing EPA’s rollback of prior protections jeopardizes public safety.
Sept. 4, 2020 EPA denies three petitions filed for reconsideration of the rule.
Oct. 2, 2020 The DC Circuit Court of Appeals continues to hold the consolidated cases before it in abeyance and requires parties to file motions about the future of the case by Dec. 3, 2020. Air Alliance Houston v. EPA, No. 19-1260 (D.C. Cir.).
Oct. 26, 2020 Environmental organizations file a lawsuit challenging EPA’s Sep. 4, 2020 denial of their petition requesting the agency reconsider its changes to the accidental release program. Community In-Power & Dev., et al v. EPA, et al, No. 20-01430 (D.C. Cir. Oct 26, 2020).
See Save EPA’s page on the rule, and see Laura Bloomer and Kate Konschnik’s white paper on the Risk Management Plan and the Arkema plant, “Arkema Explosion & the 2017 Risk Management Program Amendments.”