EPA Settles Clean Air Act Case in MO
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced that it reached a settlement with polyurethane manufacturer Foam Supplies Inc. (Earth City, Missouri) regarding alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Plan Rule.
According to a news release issued on the matter, Foam Supplies Inc. stores over 10,000 pounds of methyl formate, a regulated flammable substance, and failed to comply with regulations intended to protect the surrounding community from accidental releases of regulated substances.
Alleged violations also included the failure to submit a risk management plan and implement a hazard assessment.
The Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Plan Rule regulations require facilities that use regulated toxic and/or flammable substances to develop a Risk Management Plan that identifies the potential effects of a chemical accident; identifies steps a facility is taking to prevent an accident; and spells out emergency response procedures should an accident occur.
Once these types of plans are in place, they provide valuable information to local fire, police and emergency response personnel to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies in their community.
Risk Management Background
Per Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act Amendments, the EPA is required to publish regulations and guidance for chemical accident prevention at facilities using certain hazardous materials. These same regulations and guidance are contained in the RMP rule.
As part of the current rule, facilities using these hazardous substances are required to develop a RMP that is then revised and resubmitted to the EPA every five years. These plans are required to address the following:
Additionally, the plans also provide information to local fire, police and emergency response personnel to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies in their community.
According to reports, however, some of the RMP amendments made in 2017 were scaled back while former President Donald J. Trump was in office.
More recently, at the end of August, the EPA proposed amendments to its RMP regulations. Specifically, the changes and amplifications will affect programs under the Clean Air Act; Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention.
As outlined in the summary, the proposed revisions include several changes and amplifications to the accident prevention program requirements, enhancements to the emergency preparedness requirements, increased public availability of chemical hazard information, and several other changes to certain regulatory definitions or points of clarification.
Proposed updates to the RMP include, but are not limited to, the following:
The EPA hosted three consecutive virtual public hearings on the proposal at the end of September, with the first taking place on Sept. 26, 2022. The hearings can be accessed here. The EPA also accepted comments on the proposal, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2022-0174, until Oct. 31, 2022.
Finalized revision and amendment approvals have yet to be confirmed.
According to the EPA, approximately 150 catastrophic accidents occur each year at regulated facilities. While some of these accidents can be attributed to inadequate management or failure to ensure facility safety, the EPA has made reducing the risks from accidental releases of hazardous substances at industrial and chemical facilities a top priority.
In finding its allegations to be true involving Foam Supplies Inc., the company and the EPA recently worked out a settlement agreement, which requires Foam Suppliers Inc. to pay a $7,398 civil penalty.
The company has also agreed to purchase no less than $35,500 in emergency response equipment, including gas detectors to help determine if the atmosphere is safe for entry by firefighters; air bags for rapid extrication of entrapped individuals; and new fire hoses.
The purchased equipment will be donated to the Pattonville, Missouri, Fire Department with the goal of improving the ability of the department’s local emergency response team to detect and respond to releases of regulated substances.
Since agreeing to the settlement terms, Foam Supplies Inc. also took the necessary steps to bring the facility into compliance.