Are Risk Management Plans on Your Radar?

February 12, 2018

Lately we’ve seen increased scrutiny of Risk Management Plans (RMP) and Process Safety Management (PSM) programs by EPA, OSHA, and State regulatory agencies throughout the nation.  This has resulted in an increase in the number of RMP/PSM audits by State and Federal officials.  Audit findings can have a significant negative impact on the facility’s reputation and, in some cases, involve costly litigation.

RMP/PSM regulations are a hot topic especially since recent high-profile chemical releases such as the one at Arkema’s chemical plant in Crosby, Texas.  Arkema’s plant was flooded by Hurricane Harvey, which exceeded 500-year rainfall values, and subsequently lost electricity and the ability to refrigerate organic peroxides.  This loss in operations caused multiple uncontrolled explosions and even forced the facility to ignite the remaining chemicals in a semi-controlled burn.  Many environmental groups used the situation to criticize Arkema’s RMP, which identified floods, hurricanes, power failure, and loss of cooling as threats to the facility yet failed to provide contingency plans to address those concerns.  In September, the EPA officially opened an inquiry into whether the Arkema plant followed federal safety rules (RMP/PSM) to protect against hazards following the explosions and chemical releases.

Additionally, facilities should be aware that the EPA and OSHA have recently issued numerous compliance deviations and penalties for facilities that did not meet certain RMP/PSM deadlines (i.e. equipment inspections, safety reviews, etc.), failed to timely correct compliance audit deficiencies, and/or failed to include the above items in their Title V reporting.  In most cases, RMP compliance is listed as a single Title V Permit Condition, but most often facilities do not take RMP into account when reporting Title V compliance certifications.  This precedent takes into account a facility’s PSM program as well as many of the RMP elements which mirror those of PSM.  By taking this approach, failure to conduct a single Mechanical Integrity check or revalidate a Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) by the applicable deadline would result in a Title V deviation.  In one case, the penalty for similar deviations exceeded $375,000.

EPA’s requirement to report RMP deviations in Title V reporting has been around for years, but recently EPA has increased their involvement in issues solely related to RMP — hence more frequent facility audits.  RMP and PSM are closely related yet regulated under separate Federal entities (EPA and OSHA), which can make for some complicated discussions as one attempts to enforce/report compliance across both regulations.

RMP Rule Status

On June 9, 2017, the EPA Administrator signed a final rule to further delay the effective date of the RMP rule amendments until February 19, 2019.  The EPA is conducting a reconsideration proceeding to review objections raised by petitioners to the final RMP amendments rule. This delay of the effective date will allow the EPA to complete the reconsideration process and to consider other issues that may benefit from additional comment.

How PPM Can Help

PPM personnel have experience with everything from initial RMP development, CDX reporting, RMP triennial auditing, five-year RMP updates, PSM development, and PSM auditing.  Regardless of your industry, PPM can assist you with RMP/PSM compliance or evaluate your facility’s existing RMP/PSM Program.  If you have any questions or would like to discuss specific needs, please give us a call.

Contributed by Isaac Smith, Environmental Compliance Manager