EPA Rejects House Plea to Extend Chemical Security Outreach

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May 9 — The Environmental Protection Agency quickly shot down May 9 a House Republican request to extend the comment period for its Risk Management Program revision.

Top House Republicans, led by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), pushed the EPA on May 6 for a 30-day extension of its comment period for the contested chemical security proposal, but the agency dismissed that as unnecessary.

“EPA is not planning to extend the comment period as the agency collected comments and information through our request for information, held numerous outreach meetings with industry groups, collected information through the Small Business Advocacy Review Panel, and made available a prepublication version of the rule and key technical documents on our website two weeks prior to publication,” EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison told Bloomberg BNA May 9.

“The agency has also committed to finalizing any changes to the RMP rule in 2016 and will consider and address all comments we receive on the final rule.”

EPA Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus previously said the roughly 2 1/2 years of EPA outreach to stakeholders before crafting the proposal justifies a 60-day comment period (40 CRR 389, 4/4/16).

The proposal, issued in February, requires facilities to conduct analysis of inherently safer technologies and industrial practices, while revising language on emergency preparedness, public access to information on the facilities and disaster response coordination. It follows through on EPA commitments to improve safety in the wake of the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion in 2013 (37 CRR 468, 4/22/13 ) .

Insufficient Comment Time

The EPA's 60-day comment period, slated to expire May 13, is insufficient in light of the “complexity and scope” of the proposal, Upton said, alongside Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Power, and Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio).

“We are concerned that the EPA has been proceeding on an accelerated timeline that will not allow for meaningful and thorough public review of the proposal, or for appropriate agency consideration of public comments,” said the House energy and business leaders. “There are questions about whether the agency has fully considered the comments and recommendations to date by small entities, including small businesses and small governmental jurisdictions, potentially subject to the rule.”

Republican, Business Outcry

The three lawmakers criticized the EPA for sending the proposal to the Office of Management and Budget for approval two months before the agency finished its Small Business Advocacy Review Panel report. That submission to the OMB took place last December.

The complaints outlined in the letter, however, fall in line with outcry against the RMP proposal in recent months.

The attorneys general of Texas and Louisiana blasted the rule in a May 3 letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (40 CRR 532, 5/9/16).

In the letter, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and his Texas counterpart, Ken Paxton, said the EPA abused its Clean Air Act authority in issuing the proposal, while adding that the rulemaking would raise the risk of terrorism.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Dabbs in Washington at bdabbs@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The May 6 letter is available at http://src.bna.com/eN7.