New Rule Helps Workers Hold Chemical Facilities Accountable

A new rule that promotes public safety became effective March 15 under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk Management Program.

Chemical facilities that are subject to the Risk Management Program must hold a public meeting within 90 days after an incident that impacts the surrounding area causes offsite deaths, injuries, evacuations, sheltering-in-place, property damage or environmental damage.

USW members and fenceline communities can use these meetings to push facilities and companies for action to prevent future incidents and to hold them accountable.

The meeting requirement is part of the revised Risk Management Program rule that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued in 2017. The Trump administration repealed many key provisions of the rule, but left standing much of the public meeting requirement.

About 12,000 industrial and commercial facilities that use certain hazardous substances in specified amounts are subject to the Risk Management Program. These facilities include many chemical plants, oil refineries, paper mills, food processing operations, water and sewerage treatment plants and other operations. You can find out if a facility is covered here.

The Risk Management Program implements Section 112(r) of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, and helps prevent chemical accidents. It requires certain facilities to file a Risk Management Plan that identifies items like the potential effects of a chemical incident, the steps a facility is taking to avoid an incident and the emergency response procedures if an incident occurs.

How process works

The facility must provide one public notice of when and where the meeting will occur. After an RMP incident, local unions should contact their facility to determine the plans for a meeting.

At the meeting, the facility must provide certain data including the chemicals released; their amounts; on-site impacts; known off-site impacts; initiating event and contributing factors, if known, and operational or process changes that resulted from investigation of the release.

This also provides an opportunity for local unions to ask facility management questions about health and safety protocols.

Lastly, facility management must report to the EPA that a public meeting was held following a Risk Management Program reportable incident.

Press Inquiries

Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-2446

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

Mailing Address

United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222